I believe it was Thomas Jefferson who said, "... My country right, keep it right, my country wrong, make it right. DC is wrong! it is up to us, its citizens to ....MAKE IT RIGHT1 It is plain wrong to have thousands of DC workers drawing unemployment when they could be gainfully employed and producing tax revenue to offset the present horrendous budget shortfall. When will they EVER learn!
The excuse for NOT hiring DC workers has been,"... They don't have the skills necessary." Well, yesterday we had twenty journeymen Electricians many of whom testified about how contractors skirt the law be duplicitous hiring practices and how, with all these millions of dollars in construction going on here in the city
The following testimony. It was delivered by Linwood Martinez (Il Gato) Bentley, Co Director of The National Capital Jobs Coalition. It was given to Council member Michael Brown, at large and his Housing and Workforce Development Committee hearing on Jobs Creation.
My name is Linwood (Il Gato) Martinez-Bentley; I am Executive Director of The National Capital Jobs Coalition. I was born here in The District. I’ve taught in the DC Public school system and have been a social activist and advocate. I was a teenage participant in the struggle in the mid sixties for Civil and Human Rights as well as self-determination for our nation’s capital, the struggle continues. Without decent paying jobs there is no prospect for a productive life for anyone in the neighborhoods of this City.
The National Capital Jobs Coalition was founded upon two pillars. These two pillars must be part of the foundation for any revitalization of Washington, DC. The first is an effective and enforced first Source Law. We do not have such a law at present. The second is the creation of new green industries to employ our people in the neighborhoods and communities of The District.
Although there are a number of groups and organizations advocating for Jobs and for First Source improvements, most advocate for other issues as well, health care, gender issues, children’s rights, educational advocacy, organized labor, etc. The National Capital Jobs Coalition speaks with one voice. We speak for the vast unemployed and underutilized human capital of this city. We stand side by side with our constituents and we ask all who support this effort to join us in solidarity.
This is our Mission Statement:
The National Capital Jobs Coalition (NCJC) organizes, actively supports, and advocates for the creation of just, decent paying, jobs-with-a- future for the residents of The District of Columbia.
The Coalition Platform:
Washington, DC is a geo-political and economic center. It is a significant commercial hub as well. Here in the District is where much of the business of the nation and the world is centered. Unfortunately most of these jobs are not accessible to DC residents. Non-residents of the District of Columbia fill 70% of these living-wage jobs. Economic opportunity for the citizens of The District cannot continue to be a second - or even a third- tier priority for our city government. We believe that the under funding and inattention to the as WIC as noted in the committee’s report, is prima facie evidence of that neglect
Trinidad and Ivy City lie in the shadow of the nation’s capitol, but they have more in common with third world countries than the headquarters of global politics and governance. This is not the world of our communities and neighborhoods. The DC of power and affluence is not the DC of 40% unemployment and the blight of abandoned buildings, poverty, despair, and social disintegration. The old top-down jobs programs no longer work. These temporary jobs and make-work projects are ineffectual band-aids on the gaping wound of urban poverty. Job training programs for non-existent jobs are a cruel joke of political expediency. DC communities need new, creative, and innovative strategies, not old failed solutions with new names.
As a first step the DC Government needs to accept the fact that large development projects are a principal source of economic development, and must ensure that the benefits of these developments accrue to all the citizens of our city.
Given our platform we would like to make the following points and in this order. First Source first, then Workforce Development.
We realize that this is a long-term contest and that we fully expect to stay engaged as long as necessary. As to specifics we have three principal issues to address, both as advocates here in the halls of government and as activists out in our communities. These are the three issues:
1. Active Compliance
2. Engaged Enforcement
3. Prohibitive Penalties
For the sake of brevity, I will leave the specific recommendations to my written testimony. Here are some general comments relative to these three issues we intend to pursue.
The first is Active Compliance.
We expect contractors and construction firms and all those covered by First Source to engage in a pro-active regimen of compliance with both the letter and spirit of the law. This means designation of a First Source compliance officer to provide a single source responsibility within the organization.
Second, we will also expect Engaged Enforcement. The office of First Source compliance within DOES should have a right to expect contractors and construction firms and all those covered by First Source to engage in a pro-active regimen of compliance with both the letter and spirit of the law. This means open posted statistics regarding the companies present compliance states including other appropriate signage and postings to inform the public about First Source compliance.
Now the third and final issue, we will aggressively advocate for Prohibitive Penalties to assure that there are substantial consequences for evasion. In addition to claw back provisions and invoice payment suspension in the present amendments, it is essential that penalties are meaningful and have sufficient economic consequences to be taken seriously. This should included possible contract cancellation and prohibition on future city contract bidding.
Now our comments on Workforce Development
We believe our Workforce here in the city neighborhoods has been failed by society from the very top to the bottom. With 30 to 40 percent virtually illiterate, the commercial sector uses that as an excuse to avoid and avoid our laws on hiring DC citizens. Our position is that literacy can be taught on the job and that if the training is properly designed, literacy should not be a barrier to many procedural jobs. In this city the unemployment rate for persons of color with a high school education or, GED is around 20%, for those without such a certification it is only 19%. In this city there is no premium for a high school education. We believe a strong public private partnership needed. It should be similar to the Japanese Keiretsu.
In fact it would be a Social Keiretsu. This could also address another much ignored issue: Jobs Creation. As we mention in our platform, we need to stop training people for jobs that do not exist. The incubator of any economy and the major source for new job creation is the small business. We need a comprehensive program to identify community needs and to encourage through funding and training, poor people to start and run their own businesses in the neighborhoods.
With that I conclude our testimony. I thank the chairman for this opportunity and we look forward to working with DOES, This Council and anyone else who shares our passion for this city and its residents.
The National Capital Jobs Coalition