Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s administration on Thursday proposed a new policy that would connect local and disadvantaged workers with jobs generated by city contracts.
The policy, called Hire NOLA, is part of the city’s Economic Opportunity Strategy, which was introduced last year partly as a way to chip away at the reported 52 percent unemployment rate among working-age African-American men in New Orleans.
“The local hiring policy is designed to ensure that the people of New Orleans really have access to the city’s unprecedented economic growth,” said Ashleigh Gardere, senior adviser to Landrieu for economic opportunity. “For any city contracts or city incentives, now there will be clear goals set to make sure that local residents are able to participate.”
The proposed policy, which needs approval by the City Council, would require that businesses having applicable city contracts turn first to the city’s Office of Workforce Development as a source for finding new hires. Those contractors also would be required to demonstrate “good-faith efforts” to hire local and disadvantaged workers, the city said. Contractors would be required, for instance, to submit workforce rosters and a list of open positions to the city, Gardere said.
The new policy would apply to any contract worth more than $150,000 that’s related to the construction, alteration or demolition of a public building. It also would cover any cooperative endeavor agreement between the city and a party receiving tax incentives for economic development projects valued at more than $150,000.
The ultimate goal is to ensure that at least half of all work hours on city projects go to local workers and 30 percent go to disadvantaged local workers. The city has set initial goals for the two categories of 30 percent and 10 percent, respectively, in 2016; the goals will increase by 5 percent each year until 2020.
The Office of Workforce Development will oversee contractor compliance and also serve as the source for employee recruitment, referral and placement services. The ordinance leaves it up to the office to set enforcement rules.
The proposed ordinance, introduced by Councilman James Gray at the request of the administration, says local workers now perform 21 percent of the total work hours on city projects.
The measure defines a disadvantaged local worker as a person with a household income of less than 80 percent of the area median income for Orleans Parish or someone who has experienced other barriers to employment, such as homelessness or an arrest or conviction.
The Mayor’s Office said it has received comments on the policy from several groups including community organizers, developers, the Association of General Contractors, the Industrial Development Board, the Louisiana Workforce Commission and the New Orleans Business Alliance.
The proposed ordinance will be considered by the council’s Economic Development Committee before going to the full council.
The administration said it hopes to have the ordinance passed by October and implemented in January.