Seattle Construction-compressed

Photo: Seattle City Council

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray recently signed an executive order directing city departments to evaluate private construction projects with an investment of city funds to determine if they would benefit from the Priority Hire program. The order will affect the Key Arena, Seattle Asian Art Museum and the Seattle Aquarium projects.

Priority Hire requires that a certain percentage of labor hours on public works construction projects of $5 million or more be performed by workers living in poor neighborhoods. It also mandates apprenticeship goals for hiring women and people of color.

On seven projects in the program, low-income workers have performed more than 237,000 hours of work, according to PSBJ. At 21 percent of project hours, this is nearly double the percentage of hours performed on past projects.

In addition, there has been a 140 percent increase in African American employment and at 12 percent, women on program construction projects are working more than double the percentage of hours compared to past Seattle projects. This is one of the highest rates in the nation.

The city first tested Priority Hire on the nearly $372 million Elliott Bay Seawall project. The trial was a success so they fully adopted it two years ago through an agreement with building trade labor unions.

Councilmember Lisa Herbold, who supports the executive order, said she will explore opportunities to align the city’s investments and strategies with other public jurisdictions building in Seattle. The mayor has also sent legislation to the City Council to improve Priority Hire use rates by open-shop contractors.

Yet another step in the right direction for building a more inclusive Seattle.

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