Mayor Murray applauds Seattle’s Priority Hire, announces program expansion


Today, coinciding with the release of the City’s Priority Hire Annual Report, Mayor Ed Murray announced the expansion of the program intent, which has improved access to construction careers on City construction projects for women, people of color and others with social and economic disadvantages. In response to this success, Mayor Murray issued an executive order directing departments to evaluate private construction projects with an investment of City funds to determine if they, too, on a case-by-case basis, would benefit from Priority Hire and similar requirements that advance diversity and equitable access for City-funded construction. This Executive Order will apply the Priority Hire principles to Key Arena, the Seattle Asian Art Museum and the Seattle Aquarium.

“The Priority Hire program has seen tremendous success – including a 140 percent increase in African American employment in big city construction projects – which is why I’m signing an executive order to expand it,” said Mayor Murray. “Now, any public/private project that includes more than $5 million in City money must follow our inclusive hiring principles. Seattle is investing in careers and breaking down barriers to jobs for women, people of color and those living in disadvantaged areas.”

“I support the Mayor’s decision to improve utilization rates through an Executive Order expanding the use of Community Workforce Agreement on public/private projects,” said Councilmember Lisa Herbold. “I look forward to reviewing the Mayor’s proposed legislation to improve the Priority Hire utilization rates by open shop contractors. I will also explore opportunities to align the City’s investments, strategies, and processes with other public jurisdictions building in Seattle and retain Priority Hire workers after project completion by allowing them to work on new contracts.”

Following the positive results of a Priority Hire pilot on the Elliott Bay Seawall project, the City adopted the Priority Hire ordinance in January 2015. Implemented through a Community Workforce Agreement (CWA) between the City and the building trade labor unions, Priority Hire requires that a certain percentage of labor hours on City public works construction projects of $5 million or more be performed by workers living in economically distressed neighborhoods of Seattle and King County. It also mandates apprentice utilization rates and includes goals for hiring women and people of color.

Highlights of the Priority Hire Annual Report include:

  • Across the seven CWA projects already underway with Priority Hire requirements, workers living in economically distressed ZIP codes have performed more than 237,000 hours. At 21 percent of project hours, this performance is nearly double the percentage of hours performed on past projects.
  • Within the first three years, Priority Hire workers earned more than $8.5 million in wages, bringing that money back into our communities, especially those with the greatest economic need. This is nearly $3 million more than typically brought into our communities from City construction jobs.
  • At 12 percent, women on CWA projects are working more than double the percentage of hours compared to past City projects and one of the highest rates in the nation.
  • This program also assures that we continue to bring business to our small local contractors. Women- and minority-owned business (WMBE) utilization is nearly 16 percent through December 2016, and represents over $59 million paid to date, which compares favorably to the 14 percent that all other projects are garnering for our WMBE firms.

“The Seawall project is the most diverse jobsite I’ve been on. We need to have workers reflect our community. Everyone needs the same opportunity I’ve had. My goal is that the Seawall job is just the new normal,” said Marge Newgent, International Union of Operating Engineers.

Through contracts with training programs and community-based organizations, the City has invested approximately $1.1 million thus far to recruit and train such local workers. While the education and training programs take as many as four years for individuals to complete, 53 individuals have already joined these education programs as a direct result of these investments.

To increase these career opportunities, Mayor Murray’s executive order directs departments to notify the Department of Finance and Administrative Services (FAS), when considering an investment of City funds into private projects, to determine if the CWA and its associated requirements, including City monitoring and enforcement, would be appropriate for that project. The order also instructs departments negotiating agreements for Key Arena, the Seattle Asian Art Museum and the Seattle Aquarium redevelopment projects to include such contract provisions for meeting Priority Hire requirements.

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