DOT Approves Nationwide Pilots for Local and Targeted Hiring Policies

By Anita Hairston, PolicyLink

Last week, the US Department of Transportation initiated a first-of-its-kind experimental program that will allow city and state departments of transportation to set economic and geographic preferences when hiring for local contracts to build roads, bridges, and transit facilities.

This is a groundbreaking move for transportation equity. For too long, the U.S. Department of Transportation held onto a prohibition on local hiring that failed to serve communities most in need of good transportation jobs. Research has shown that low-income workers and communities of color are vastly under-represented in jobs in the transportation sector. This is a missed opportunity for connecting these communities to quality jobs, especially given the good wages and benefits that often accompany transportation work.

This new local hire program, which will promote employment of local, low-income workers on transportation projects, will be established for a one-year trial period. It sets forth a glide path to full workforce inclusion. Federal transportation officials have also signaled a desire to make this trial program permanent — a move that would have a huge impact on building sustainable change within our nation’s transportation system.

PolicyLink has been working for many years to win targeted hiring provisions in infrastructure. Local hire has a congressional advocate in Rep. Karen Bass (D-CA) who championed local hire legislation. Because of its potential for positive community impact, local and targeted hiring provisions are a key part of the policy goals that the Transportation Equity Caucus has outlined for the federal surface transportation legislation, which is currently being debated in Congress.

Now is the time for equity advocates to encourage their regional transportation decision-makers to take advantage of the new local hire program. This is an urgent moment to let USDOT know that local and targeted hire is a priority for our communities. Join PolicyLink, The Leadership Conference Education Fund, the Equity Caucus, and other organizations to send comment letters to USDOT about this program before April 6, 2015. For more information, please email Anita Hairston at [email protected].