Sunday, November 21, 2010

Now ... about DC Jobs

This is NOT the DC of Your Father (... or, mine)

The Washington DC I knew when  I worked on the Hill in 1962 no longer exists. That was before the METRO, before MLK's historic speech, before JFK's tragic end in Dallas ... it was a long time ago.  At that time in the burgeoning expansion after WWII and Korea ... before Viet Nam there were plenty of jobs for all levels of people here in the city.  DC was often the first stop (or, the last) for many fleeing the low pay, segragated towns and cities of the last of the old south.  DC was a jobs haven for low skilled young and energetic people.  Those days are long gone.  The Government Printing Office will never again need all those paper folders, typists, clerks, and even porters (we now have fork lifts)  Modern technology has largely obviated most of those "entry" level jobs.

No Low Skilled, High Paying Jobs

Although some of those jobs exist in the hospitality and convention fields, the DC job of today is high tech, computer literate, and well, very well educated.  Quite frankly, it is so competitive that getting a job as a file clerk (yes, there are still some of those) is difficult... one needs a Masters Degree for even very low payed entry level jobs ... AND the federal government is cutting back and under an austerity jobs freeze.  A high school education today is not much help in getting a job.  The unemployment rate for people of color with a high school education is about 19% ... but, for those without, it is still only 20%.  One percentage point for a four year high school education.  The market has devalued secondary education it would seem.   Recently published stats on US education are not very good when we compare out kids to other countries ... BUT, what about here in DC!  Where are we going to get employment for the folks in Ivy City where illiteracy runs 30 to 40% by some estimates?

Training is NOT Education  
Education is about Concept - Training is About Tasks

The answer is job training and NOT education!  Too much of what is called training today is really education.  in adult education we need a new paradigm.  It needs to be Adult Training.  When the training is over people need to be able to perform on the job and not just answer multiple choice questions.  Recently a construction project here in DC had to shut down its Concrete pouring operation ans sub contract it out to an outside vendor because the crew that had been hired form a DC based so called jobs training program were incompetent.  ... more on DC Jobs and how we plan to create new industry and new green jobs in coming blogs ... stay tuned!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Coalition in Action

 we plan to follow up on this visit and to document actual practice on site as opposed to accepting un audited reporting documents.

In keeping with out mission and operational objectives to monitor and report on First Source participation and compliance issues, two members of the National Capital Jobs Coalition, (NCJC) made an unannounced visit to the EYA Construction site at The Saint Paul's Chancellor's Rowe Town homes in Brookland.  We met with several contractors on the site.  Although quite pleasant and cooperative none of those we spoke to seemed to understand the details of The First Source agreement.

Tony Rodrigues whose card lists him as Superintendent of Cuco & Son Concrete Construction, ofSterling, VA, an EYA contractor said he had five employees and had just hired one person from DC.  He seemed to believe that this made him compliant with the First Source legislation.  Glen Fritz, President of Deneau Construction whose company builds, Storm Drain, Sewer, and Water Main facilites said that, he believed that a First Source agreement was in effect but that he had no DC employees on his raster.

Finally, Its clear that many of these contractors are unsure of the law and don't understand their responsibilities under First Source anyway.  We visited the site construction trailer and met Mr. Mark King, Construction Manager for the project.  EYA lists its headquarters on his card as "Bethesda, MD."  Mr. King noted that his job as construction manager began when the excavation ended.  He acknowledged that a First Source agreement existed and offered to cooperate with us in any reasonable way ... we plan to follow up on this visit and to document actual practice on site as opposed to accepting un audited reporting documents.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

First Source, How DC is being robbed every day!

On October 28, 2010 The National Capital Jobs Coalition, NCJC conducted a public education job action at the present construction site on Rhode Island Avenue.  The so called Rhode Island METRO project.  We used the sidewalk and stayed on public property.  In no way did we interfere with the project.   A representative of the company came out to talk to us and presented their position that Bozzuto is in compliance with First Source legislation.  The company took pictures of all marchers and we, took pictures of them.

Let us state categorically that NCJC"s issue is not about compliance.  It is about fairness in both the letter and spirit of the city’s relationship with its taxpayers and its vendors.   We do not expect any Commercial Construction Company to pay more for labor than absolutely necessary.   However … The First Source agreement calls for signatories to pay a "... living wage."  The use of non employee contractors to evade this provision appears to be common practice.

The following is based upon information provided by Bozzuto Construction Company.  In September there were 168 people working on the site at Rhode Island Avenue.  The total number of DC workers employed was 26.  

The common belief, fostered by official sources is that 51% of all new hires for this project will be from The District.  In fact, from our perspective it is an entirely different picture..  26 is 15.5% of the workforce not 51% as commonly held.  This is a projected 107 million dollar project with 168 people employed with only 26 from the district.  This is patently unfair.  Where is the economic benefit to the people of the district.  

Why is this possible?  It is because the construction contractor uses out-of-city “sub-contractors”.  It is a strategy devised to limit employment of DC labor and to maximize profit. 

This is how developers and contractors evade obeying the law.    The sub-contractors present documents that show they already have their day laborers or regulars "on staff", This allows them to avoid hiring DC residents.   These, so called, existing staff are therefore exempt from the First Source rules.   An additional benefit of this strategy is that the construction company and contractors don't have to pay the required wages/benefits, as called for in the First Source agreement. … and this is how 15% becomes 51%.

  We are advocating for stronger legislation that would prevent these “strategies”.  Everyone wants developers in DC to be profitable.  It is in no one’s best interest to make the district a no profit zone.  We seek only fairness and a level playing field for all parties to this issue.  This is why NCJC held a public job action to educate and inform the people of the district about the hundreds of thousands of dollars being drained from our economy by carpet bagging construction contractors who blatantly lie about the numbers, the labor force, and the relationship with their, "so called" employee.  In fairness we need to say that we have no hard evidence of this practice on the part of The Bozzuto Construction Company.  We do intend to watch them and others to determine of and how hiring practices effect the people of our city.