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Silicon Valley Ordinance Would Encourage Local Hiring, Apprenticeship Training for Private Projects

Sunnyvale Councilmember, Jim Davis

Sunnyvale Councilmember, Jim Davis

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Despite private construction picking up in the South Bay, many local construction workers are being left out the equation.  In response, a labor-backed effort to voluntarily use local labor and apprentices is gaining steam in Sunnyvale, California.  An ordinance, which would be the first of its kind in the region, could change the shape of private construction in the state.  

Ben Field, Executive Officer of the South Bay Labor Council, spoke with The Silicon Valley Business Journal:

“The development that’s happening in the South Bay is increasingly failing to employ local workers, and increasingly it’s paying a wage that is not a living wage.  We’re seeing more developers bringing workers in from out of state. There’s a common misperception that when people see a big crane in their city, that that means local jobs. That’s not true much of the time.”

The ordinance, which is being supported by councilmember Jim Davis, would strongly encourage developers and contractors of major, private construction projects to hire local workers and pay the prevailing wage.  These standards would become the city’s preferred position on private development without being wholly mandated. What would be required under the ordinance is the use of apprentices from state-approved programs.  Because many non-union apprenticeship programs have trouble keeping up success rates, the ordinance faces a union vs. non-union fight.

Anti-union advocates such as Kevin Dayton, President and CEO of Labor Issues Solutions, LLC, argue that the apprenticeship language is a ploy to exclude non-union contractors who do not invest in training.  “This is a scheme here to figure out a way to disqualify nonunion competition,” Dayton said.

But Field explains that such concerns are “overblown,” adding that no project would be penalized for not sending apprentices.  He explained that the issue is actually much simpler:

“I think it’s a quality of life issue,” Field said. “Workers are being asked to travel a very long distance and never see their families. The labor movement needs to stick up for all workers, not just our members. That’s the main reason we’re doing this.”


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