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L.A. Light Rail Project Labor Agreement Exceeds Goals for Local, Disadvantaged Hiring

Local residents rallied for the provisions in the PLA.

Local residents rallied for the provisions in the PLA.

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The 8.5 mile light rail line that will connect Los Angeles’ Crenshaw neighborhood with Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) is governed by a Project Labor Agreement (PLA) that mandates local residents get a chance to work on the project.  The PLA was approved in 2011 and construction was approved in 2012. Now, with ground broken, the importance of the project to the South Los Angeles community is on display.   Lola Smallwood Cuevas, director of the Los Angeles Black Work Center, praised the PLA telling Intersections South LA:

“The construction for the line could be an example of renewal.  It could create new jobs, provide transportation and bring investments to the community. It could be a triple bottom line victory for our community.”

The terms of the neighborhood-friendly PLA include:

…40 percent of the construction jobs must go to people living in zip codes with high unemployment rates, according to Metro. Of that 40 percent, 10 percent of jobs must be assigned to disadvantaged workers, such as veterans or emancipated foster care youth. The agreement also stipulates that 20 percent of workers should be apprentices who have spent more than 4,000 hours learning a particular trade.

So far, the project’s contractors have exceeded the numbers mandated by the deal in all areas except apprenticeship.  Miguel Cabral, who is in charge of the PLA’s business outreach campaign, says that given contractors’ early attempts to reach the predetermined hiring goals, they will be given more time to meet the apprenticeship figures.  

In the early phases of the project a tremendous number of local workers found their way onto the jobsite:

According to a Metro report from late last year, project contractor’s Walsh/Shea Corridor Constructors had hired nearly 60 percent of its workers from economically disadvantaged areas, nearly 20 percent more than mandated by federal funding provisions. Similarly, disadvantaged workers made up 30 percent of Walsh/Shea’s workforce, exceeding the PLA’s requirement of 10 percent. However, the number of apprentices hired to date remains low.

Hiring local workers is greatly beneficial to the community as it creates a base of skilled workers for future Metro projects.  Erich Engler, business manager at Walsh/Shea, said that construction jobs on the project could be a launchpad for many:

“Metro has a lot of upcoming projects that can be part of the PLA,” Engler said. “We want to ensure that residents in the community have the skill sets to work on these projects.”


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