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Early this morning, At-Large Councilmember Kwame Brown and the D.C. Sports and Entertainment Commission invited folks down to the baseball stadium for a little tour and press conference.
Part of the deal was to let media folk and politicos ooh and aah at the stadium construction, which is coming along nicely, project manager Matt Haas said—-sod will be laid by the first week of November, and seats are being installed at the rate of about 2,000 per week. But the main point of holding the presser was to address the project’s compliance with promises made regarding D.C.-resident labor back when the stadium deal was crafted.
Last month, City Paper‘s Joe Eaton broke the story that D.C. residents aren’t doing anywhere near the amount of work that the stadium’s labor agreement promised. Instead of the 50 percent of journeyman hours the agreement laid out, Joe reported D.C. residents had worked only 23 percent.
Brown & Co. today tried to put the best face on things: When it comes to other aspects of the labor agreement, things are going pretty well. The project’s meeting a 50 percent minimum for contracts awarded to local, small, or disadvantaged businesses; it just barely missed a goal of having 51 percent of all new hires be D.C. residents; and District residents have worked 78 percent of all apprentice hours. Also, honchos pointed out, 245 of 270 new hires were D.C. residents (never mind the agreement specified 100 percent).
But there was little mention of how the project was complying with the journeyman-hours requirement—-that detail certainly didn’t make the PowerPoint presentation. (Journeymen are the most skilled, best paid workers on the job, and they represent the majority of the hours worked on the site; it takes as much as five years as an apprentice, depending on the trade, to reach journeyman status.) When asked, project bigwigs said the figure was up to 28 or 29 percent.
The essential problem is that there aren’t enough skilled D.C. resident workers available to fill the jobs. If a subcontractor doesn’t have a D.C. resident to do a job, it can contact the city’s Department of Employment Services. If DOES has no workers, then the subcontractor can hire whoever.
The good news: Due to all the apprentice hires, there should be more available journeymen down the line, but not for years.
So why set an unattainable goal? A DOES staffer present this morning said that her agency—-tasked with keeping tabs on the District’s labor force—-had been present throughout the labor agreement’s negotiation. Shouldn’t they have pointed out that 50 percent employment is a pipe dream, at least in some trades?
Courtland Cox of the Sports and Entertainment Commission had a suggestion why the D.C. Council would do that: “If you don’t set high goals, you don’t accomplish anything.”