Seattle unanimously passes Priority Hire law

Workers in Seattle lay concrete during the West Emerson Overpass Repair Project in Magnolia. Photo by Seattle DOT.
Workers in Seattle lay concrete during the West Emerson Overpass Repair Project in Magnolia. (Photo by Seattle DOT via Flickr)

The city’s construction projects will have more workers from within Seattle city limits, after the city council unanimously passed a new Priority Hire law on Tuesday.

The legislation requires that least 20 percent of workers on all Seattle public works projects of $5 million or more come from economically distressed areas. The new law also aims to increase that to 40 percent by 2025. Contractors also must meet this requirement by first considering applicants from “economically distressed” zip codes in Seattle.

Economically distressed zip codes are defined as areas with a high concentration of individuals who are 1) living at or below 200 percent of the Federal Poverty Level, 2) unemployed, and/or 3) without a college degree.

Second in priority are applicants from economically distressed zip codes in King County, followed by workers from any other economically distressed area.

According to the Stranger, the city was barred legally from limiting the requirement to people living within the city limits.

The bill was brought to the council after being passed last week by the city’s Housing Affordability, Human Services and Economic Resiliency Committee.

“With this bill, more Seattleites who have faced barriers to getting into construction careers will reap the rewards of both a well-paying job in the short-term and portable skills for the future,” council member Sally J. Clark, the legislation’s sponsor and committee chairwoman, said in a prepared statement released last week.

The new law, which came into effect after months of study, addresses the small percentage of Seattle residents who are working on city public works projects.

City officials learned that in the city’s 33 projects between 2009 and 2013, only 6 percent of the project’s workers lived in Seattle and 25 percent lived in King County.

The law also increases the percentage of apprentices required on those large projects and sets aspirational goals for the hiring of women and minority workers.

Seattle organizations Got Green and Puget Sound Sage also worked on the ordinance, and pushed for its passage.

City council member Mike O’Brien, an early supporter of Priority Local Hire, thanked those who participated in the creation of the law.

“How often do we get to say that we are passing this amazing legislation that started in the community?” O’Brien told reporters, just before the city council hearing and vote.

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1 Comment

  1. If they were to say, ensure city of Seattle residents were the 20% I would not be so sternly opposed. However, if someone from a distressed area wants a well paying construction gig, and say move to a place where there are better schools and safer neighborhoods, they will not be able to apply their trade. This legislation may provide certain zip codes with more money (Not enough to likely solve any social problems), but it also restricts the liberty of those who initially benefit from it.

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