The Baltimore City Council wants to ensure that city’s jobless aren’t passed over as the city develops. But a new local hiring bill, is too good to be true, says local minority businessmen.
The bill would require contractors with $300,000 in city contracts or $5 million in city subsidies to hire 51 percent of their new employees from the ranks of Baltimore residents. Baltimore City Solicitor George Nilson said the 51 percent mandate would also be required of subcontractors bidding on these contracts.
Wayne Frazier, president of the Maryland-Washington Minority Contractors’ Association, said small business contractors bid on jobs based on the workforce they currently have or their ability to ramp up their workforce. He said if subcontractors must follow the contractors in hiring 51 percent of new employees from Baltimore, minority owned contractors, most of which are small businesses, may be cut out of the bidding process.
“It would be a hardship for small businesses because small businesses can’t change their culture and hire new employees as quickly as larger competing companies,” said Frazier.
Frazier said skilled workers are critical to efficient completion of a job, he said, questioning whether there are enough skilled workers in the city to meet the 51 percent requirement.
“I understand what Council President Jack Young is trying to do, but if you are looking to bring in skilled workers with licenses and certificates, your pickings might be smaller in the city than in the entire state.”
Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke (D-14) disagrees. She said there are hundreds of skilled young men and women in the city who have paid to go to vocational programs and cannot find work. Clarke said the subcontractors would actually help to alleviate some of the burden for hiring local by the contractors.
“My understanding is that a construction contractor is responsible for the entire contract to make sure that anyone on that work site that is a new hire—51 percent of those new hires—are Baltimore residents,” said Clarke. “That means the contractor has to have an agreement with the subs to help them meet that goal.”
Clarke also said there are scores of unskilled jobs and on-the-site training jobs for Baltimore residents on the job site.
Nilson maintains that the local hiring bill is unconstitutional, as it violates the Privileges and Immunities clause in the U.S. Constitution which states that government policy that directs or encourages preferences based on residency is illegal.
“There are other things the city could do to improve local hiring,” said Nilson. “They could create a preference in favor of lower income employees or people at or below the poverty line.”
The bill is scheduled to get a third reading and approval by the city council as early as June 3.