Thursday, March 31, 2011

Three More Things We Can Do To Secure Local Employment

Yesterday evening, I was asked by a gentleman what I would do to ensure that District residents - particularly Ward 8 residents - were hired to work on the Department of Homeland Security redevelopment of St. Elizabeth's campus. Most of my answer focused on training, because I noted that this redevelopment was a federal project (and thus outside the reach of the Council to legislate), but this answer was not radical or visionary enough, in retrospect.

There are several more radical approaches we can take to assure that District residents are hired to work on this redevelopment.

First, the Council should pass legislation mandating to construction companies that if they build in the District, they must train and hire District workers or they will find it almost impossible to win future city contracts. Such a bill would amend our contracting procedures in a way that would explicitly reduce the viability of any future bid for city contracts submitted by any contractor who performs construction in the District, but who fails to employ District residents in half of the new positions created to complete that project. This economic incentive will force construction companies around the world who want to compete for our city contract dollars to train and hire District residents for all of the projects they undertake within the District.

Second, I would write a letter to the Office of Attorney General and our local U.S. Attorney requesting an investigation into whether the contractors who are leading the DHS redevelopment project are following all applicable federal laws regarding subcontracting with local small and disadvantaged businesses and encourage the EEOC to vigorously investigate any claims that the project as a whole is engaging in any form of job discrimination when considering applicants. Further, I would urge the Office of the Attorney General to research every legal avenue at the District's disposal to ensure that our local businesses and residents are not shut out of this project when they have the ability to perform.

Third, and most radical, if the above two steps fail to secure any significant hiring of District residents, I would urge local community organizations to consider nonviolent direct action to force the redevelopment contractors to deal with this issue. Nonviolent direct action ended Jim Crow and a series of other abuses in this country and - if all else fails - it will secure District residents employment on this and other large projects in this city.

A vote for me on April 26th is a vote for visionary solutions to seemingly intractable problems like local unemployment. So, four weeks from now, vote Alan Page, number 1 on the ballot and the number one fighter for the ordinary folks in the city struggling to improve their lives, the voice for the voiceless and a servant for the people.

(Photo by Antonia Coles)

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