BOSTON—This week, the Joint Committee on State Administration and Regulatory Oversight reported out favorably S. 1568, An Act to create equitable jobs access, a bill that helps ensure public projects funded by taxpayer dollars are creating local jobs and promoting workforce diversity.
“One of thegreatest frustrations I hear from constituents is seeing parking lots of multi-million dollar, state-funded construction projects in Roxbury or Dorchester filled with cars with New Hampshire license plates,” said Senator Sonia Chang-Díaz (D-Boston), the bill’s lead sponsor. “This bill uses the power of sunlight to make sure our communities are benefitting from the projects our taxpayer dollars are paying for.”
“In this difficult economy, the equitable jobs access bill is very timely,” said Senator Ken Donnelly (D-Arlington), Senate Chairman of the Joint Committee on State Administration and Regulatory Oversight, the committee that released the bill. “Senator Chang-Diaz should be commended for her leadership in advocating for equal opportunity for all Massachusetts workers, including women and minorities. This bill is a step forward because it helps keep jobs in Massachusetts and ensures that the workforce on public projects reflects the diversity of local communities.”
“We are talking about how to maximize a return on an investment that every taxpayer in the Commonwealth makes,” said Representative Carlos Henriquez (D-Boston), who testified at the hearing. “This bill will lighten the load by improving our workforce, expand our tax base, save costs for welfare and incarceration. In this economy, we should all be supporting ways to spend wisely and get the most bang for our buck and education is the best place to do it.”
“As someone who sits on a community board which monitors some of the construction jobs that are part of the more recent development in the Roxbury Community, I applaud all efforts to create a more equitable means to ensure the economic viability of all communities,” said Dorothea M. Jones,a Roxbury resident and member of the Roxbury Strategic Master Plan Oversight Committee. “I am an advocate for an effective and timely monitoring process that enhances the function of such a program. I support the legislation of Senator Sonia Chang-Diaz and her persistence in the effort to improve the economic viability of her senate district, in all of its diversity.”
“Times are hard for building trades workers across the state, but in Roxbury and Dorchester the problem is even more severe,” said Aaron Tanaka, Executive Director of the Boston Workers Alliance. “Unemployed young men watch while out of state workers take high paying jobs right in our neighborhoods. S.1568 begins to stop this injustice by making the state favor local contractors that will share good jobs more fairly within our community.”
“We believe this bill will increase accountability through its transparency and reporting requirements, help build capacity through meaningful partnerships, and ultimately stimulate economic development in the community where the project takes place,” said Greg Janey, Co-Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Massachusetts Minority Contractors Association. “This bill is a milestone for the minority/women and small businesses community as it will bring to light the unfair practices within the public construction industry and provide a stepping stone towards holding contractors accountable for poor performance.”
Massachusetts invests millions of taxpayer dollars each year in public contracts, yet the state lacks a 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. 1568 creates a system of 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:
- Makes it a stated goal of the Commonwealth that businesses receiving taxpayer dollars through public contracts reflect the diversity of our population;
- Encourages bidders on public contracts to compete with one another on how well they can advance the state’s diversity goals by making this a factor upon which their bids get evaluated;
- Mandates state agencies to evaluate each bidder’s current capacity and past performance in living up to the workforce diversity goals they set in their bids; and
- Requires the state to develop a website so the public can judge the state’s performance on hiring diversity and local job creation in real-time, instead of post-project.
The bill has strong community support. Testifiers at the October 18, 2011 hearing included City Councilors Tito Jackson and Ayanna Pressley, Mel King, and Rev. Hurmon Hamilton. Other supporters of the bill include the Center for Women and Enterprise, Massachusetts Black & Latino Legislative Caucus,Mayor Lisa Wong, Brockton City Councilor Jass Stewart, 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.