BOSTON—The Massachusetts State Senate last night passed S. 2386, a modified version of a bill introduced by Senator Sonia Chang-Díaz (D-Boston) to help ensure public projects funded by taxpayer dollars are creating local jobs and promoting workforce diversity.
“This bill addresses one of the greatest frustrations I hear from constituents: public construction projects are happening in their neighborhoods, but the jobs for these projects are going elsewhere,” said Chang-Díaz. “This bill uses the power of sunlight to make sure our communities are benefitting from the projects our taxpayer dollars are paying for by creating greater accountability on every project from start to finish. I hope the House takes up this bill before the end of the legislative session.”
“People in Boston hear a lot from me and others about how things are unfair when it comes to the trades and work in construction in our neighborhoods of color,” said Rodney Singleton, Roxbury activist and resident/Jackson Square CAC Chairman. “This bill helps us tackle this problem by giving us a tool to keep a watchful eye on contractors and the state. The bill can’t be the end of the line—we have to keep fighting for more—but it’s a very strong start.”
Massachusetts invests millions of taxpayer dollars each year in public construction contracts, yet the state lacks a consistent mechanism for tracking if these projects are creating local jobs, or if the state is performing well relative to its goals of minority- and women-owned businesses (MBEs/WBEs) or workforce diversity.
S. 2386 creates economic incentives to increase workforce diversity, and increases accountability and transparency within the public contracting system from the initial bidding process through each project’s completion. The bill:
- Requires the state to develop a website and post quarterly performance numbers, contract by contract, so the public can judge the state’s and contractors’ performance on hiring diversity and local job creation in real-time, instead of post-project;
- Mandates state construction agencies to evaluate each bidder’s past performance in living up to the workforce diversity goals that they agree to in their contracts;
- Makes it a stated policy of the Commonwealth to include workforce diversity goals in all state-funded construction projects; and
- Incentivizes bidders on public contracts to follow through on their contract’s diversity goals by making this a factor upon which their future bidding eligibility gets evaluated.
“None of the workers or contractors who support this bill is looking for a hand-out,” said Chang-Díaz. “They just want a fair shot at competing for the work that builds up their own communities. They just want to get a foot in the door, and have the person doing the hiring look up from the resumes of the same people they’ve always done business with for decades and say, ‘Hey, I’m here, I’m qualified, and I’m invested in this community. Give me a try.’”
The bill has strong community support. The coalition that has formed around An Act to create equitable jobs access includes Fitchburg Mayor Lisa Wong, Boston City Councilors Tito Jackson and Ayanna Pressley, Brockton City Councilor Jass Stewart, Mel King, Rev. Hurmon Hamilton, the Center for Women and Enterprise, Massachusetts Black & Latino Legislative Caucus, Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative, Boston Workers Alliance, Massachusetts Communities Action Network, Massachusetts Minority Contractors Association, Mel King Institute for Community Building, Massachusetts Tradeswomen Association, Karl Nurse Communications, Nexus Alliance, D'Ventures Limited, LLC, and the Union of Minority Neighborhoods.