by VoiceWaves Beat Reporter Patrick Moreno
During a community input meeting hosted by the Port of Long Beach and the West Long Beach Neighborhood Association, a young woman confronted port officials, asking them what was being done to ensure that port jobs reach Long Beach residents. She had her resume in her purse she said, and she wasn’t kidding.
While new construction projects would bring even more badly needed jobs to the communities surrounding the Port of Long Beach, only about 10 percent of the jobs actually go to Long Beach residents.
Currently, port contractors are mandated to allot 30 percent of their employment to locals, but “local” doesn’t necessarily mean Long Beach. The port’s contractors have surpassed their required number of Los Angeles and Orange County employee hours, but labor agreements do not require a mandatory number of Long Beach employee-hours.
Long Beach presently has a more troubling unemployment rate of 12 percent, which exceeds both the California’s rate of 11 percent and the national’s rate of 8 percent.
In 2010, the Solis Group was contracted to help in the administration and public outreach of the Port’s new project labor agreements.
Project Labor Agreements are stipulations in contracts awarded by groups like the port, which declare that a minimum percentage of hours must be worked by certain demographics, including workers that are local, disabled, or veterans.
The Solis group was established in 1992 to provide support services to public agencies undertaking construction and engineering projects like the POLB renovation.
“The public labor agreements do not require for contractors to award a percentage of work to Long Beach residents specifically,” said Solis Group Program Director Joe Carroll. “But we know that is a concern of the community.” He went on to describe the rates at which Long Beach residents are actually being hired.
About 10 percent of jobs awarded by contractors have been to Long Beach residents, and three contractors, Dynalectric, Connolly Pacific, and Manson, have been responsible for the lions share of those hirings.
The first three of four labor agreements have been signed under the supervision of the Solis group, who will eventually oversee the awarding of eight construction contracts, valued at more than 400 million dollars.
Contractors have gone beyond the 30 percent PLA requirement for local hires, hiring an average of more than 70 percent of Los Angeles and Orange County residents on the first two stages, and 14 percent disadvantaged on the first stage, according to Carroll.
The 10-year, and $4.5 billion capital investment plan which was approved by city council last month, and the jobs it would create, were the main topics at a community meeting at Silverado Park last Thursday.
“These are 10 year projects, so Long Beach youth should get hands-on training so they’re ready,” said John Cross, president of the Westside Long Beach Association.
The woman mentioned at the beginning of this story asked the port’s executive director, J. Christopher Lytle, ”What is being done to ensure that you don’t have to ‘know someone’ to be able to get one of these new openings at the port?” Her question reflected the attitude of Long Beach residents who feel excluded from the port’s pool of applicants by unions and project labor agreements.
Workers under the new PLAs are required to be a pre-existing employee of the companies contracted, union hall referrals, or residents who have attended apprenticeship fairs and events.
“The city needs to work in collaboration with LBCC and the University to prepare our residents to fill those job positions,” said Theral Golden, vice president at the Westside Long Beach Association.
At the Westside Long Beach Association meeting, Commissioner Rich Dines referred to those apprenticeship fairs and described them as, “career fair” programs that would go into neighborhoods like West Long Beach and inform unemployed residents of not just jobs, but career opportunities with the port. He also mentioned that the program would serve as an informative program for youth in those areas to learn how to go about training and studying for a career with the POLB.
Dines could not be reached for comment on the details or estimated start date of the program.
For more information on Long Beach Port jobs, or their capital investment plan, check here.
Westside Long Beach Association Leaders speak with VoiceWaves about port jobs and unemployment in Long Beach.