The Responsible Employee Ordinance (REO) passed by the Worcester City Council in June is viewed by progressives as a positive step for workers in Massachusetts, but some workers’ right advocates think the ordinance should go further in helping build up the construction trades in the region. The ordinance, which mandates that contractors bidding on projects funded with taxpayer money provide apprenticeship programs, was the topic of a recent op-ed for the News-Telegram by Frank Kartheiser, co-chairman of the Worcester Community Labor Coalition.
Kartheieser declares the REO a good start to the conversation, but believes more can be done to make the ordinance help the residents of Worcester.
Worcester residents should benefit from tax dollars that are used for local economic development projects. To establish hiring goals for residents and disadvantaged workers who have not had the opportunity to participate, specific next steps are required.
First, Worcester needs to conduct a disparity study to identify which residents have been left out of the economy. According to state documents, the courts have made it clear that in order to implement a program (which addresses issues of inequality) that is effective, enforceable and legally defensible, it must meet the judicial test of constitutional “strict scrutiny.” Strict scrutiny requires current “strong evidence” of the persistence of discrimination, and “narrowly tailored” measures to remedy that discrimination. A local disparity study will provide the evidence required to meet this standard.
Once the study is complete, as a community, we need to determine specific hiring goals for disadvantaged residents, young people, women and minorities that are clearly measurable, enforceable, and accountable for all parties. Transparency and accountability are necessary to achieve compliance…
Finally, we need to establish a structured vehicle through which to reach out and engage those left out of the economy, beginning with a state-approved pre-apprenticeship training program. This will provide those interested in acquiring or improving their construction skills with a program through which to gain the necessary skills, while construction companies benefit from a pool of uniformly and adequately trained workers.
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