Soon there may be a new law requiring contractors to hire more Baltimore residents for jobs involving city contracts. The proposed local hiring bill, approved unanimously by the city council on second reading May 13, would require firms with $300,000 in city contracts or $5 million in city subsidies to prove that 51 percent of their new hires are Baltimore City residents.
“We have hundreds of young men and women in this city who have gone to paid vocational education programs and they can’t get hired,” said Baltimore City Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke (D). “We have more than enough unemployed, skilled people to meet the 51 percent requirement.”
The bill will require contractors to go through the Mayor’s Office of Employment Development to identify qualified job seekers to fill the positions. The contractor must file a job advertisement with MOED at least seven days before filing a public advertisement in the city.
Clarke said during the seven days, MOED will provide contractors with lists of skilled and unskilled qualified local residents looking for work in the city. She said while some jobs require previous training; there are many jobs, at a construction site, for instance, that require little training or that allow the newly-hired to train on the job.
“This bill benefits the city directly, because when we have residents who are unemployed we don’t get any city or state income tax on that person,” said Clarke.
While the bill was supported unanimously in the city council, the proposed legislation has drawn oppositions from some local private employers, such as the Greater Baltimore Committee, a regional organization of business and civic leaders.
“We think it is reasonable to promote city hiring by jobs funded by the city,” said GBC spokesperson Gene Bracken. “But we think it’s not the best method of implementation.”
He said the measure would impose the expense of preparing and submitting reports to MOED each month on private businesses and add to their administrative burdens.
Bracken said the penalty for non-compliance—a year of debarment blocking them from bidding on city contract, plus a $500 fine for each person not hired-- will not help to grow Baltimore.
Added opposition comes from the city’s lawyers. In a memo to the city council Jan. 2, the city law department declared that government policy that directs or encourages preferences based on residency in a city violates the Privileges and Immunities Clause of the U.S. Constitution. The memo said discrimination against workers based on residence would only survive scrutiny if the court found that non-residents are linked to local unemployment.
Cory V. McCray, who is currently running for state delegate in the 45th district and is founder of B.E.S.T. Democratic Club, is an electrician by trade who supports the measure. He said he was trained through a five-year apprenticeship program with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 24.
“I knew nothing about electrical work. I was just a guy walking in off the street,” said McCray of his life before the apprenticeship program. “Politicians need to figure out how to get jobs in our neighborhoods.”
McCray said he remembers when the East Baltimore Development Inc. was heading up construction for Johns Hopkins University in east Baltimore he saw tons of out-of-state tags from Delaware and Pennsylvania of laborers working on the project. “They aren’t going to hire in Baltimore, unless we make sure there is legislation put in place to require it.”
Brian Freeman, communications director for the Mayor’s Office of Employment Development (MOED), said while he cannot speculate the implementation of the local hiring bill, their agency already has several initiatives to ensure local residents are hired for city work contracts.
“Our job is to develop the workforce and prepare them for jobs,” said Freeman. “The city has plenty of residents who are skilled, pre-screened with resumes who are ready to work. Within 24 hours of a work request from an employer-- with the job description and the qualifications-- we are able to get back to them.”
As of May 6, contractors have reported 56 percent of the employees working on city funded contracted jobs of $50,000 or more are Baltimore residents according to MOED. Freeman said 2,114 Baltimore residents are on payroll for all contracts out of a total 3,804 workers needed to complete services.
The third reading of the bill is scheduled to take place on June 3.
In 2011, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake issued an executive order requiring all owners of all businesses with contracts of $50,000 or more to look through MOED for local residents as possible new hires.