Menino seen as supportive of job-ranking for diversity

The Menino administration is sounding notes of support for a City Council proposal to rank the diversity of the workforces of contractors and developers. The city encourages developers and contractors to hire Boston residents for 50 percent of jobs. The guidelines, first adopted in the 1980s, also suggest that minorities make up 25 percent and the project have 10 percent female workers.

Under the City Council proposal, developers and contractors would be ranked every month by their level of compliance. The proposal was filed by City Councillors Michael Ross and Ayanna Pressley, who say they have heard complaints of jobs going to workers who live outside the city.

Mayor Thomas Menino, one of the guidelines’ original backers when he was a city councillor, said he was supportive of quarterly reports to the city clerk.

The City Council proposal is intended as an amendment to the original guidelines. “The aim of this [proposed] ordinance is to maintain trust,” and those who fall below the guidelines should be publicly identified, Pressley said.

“Data is very powerful,” Ross said at a hearing on the proposal last week. “If we had information coming in regularly, I think you would see a change. You would see contractors not wanting to go to the bottom of that list, you would see developers not wanting to go to the bottom of that list.”

Brooke Woodson, the head of the Boston Employment Commission, the agency tasked with ensuring compliance with the guidelines, said he was generally supportive of the proposal.

“I agree when we shine a light on the issue, we see the best results,” he said at a hearing held last week by the City Council’s Government Operations Committee. But he also noted that not all projects being worked on across the city are similar, varying in size and in having a unionized work force. “One of the concerns I have is all projects are not equal,” he said.

Woodson added: “If we were just to report the numbers, to rank them, I don’t think it paints the full picture.”

City officials also expressed a cautionary note, pointing to legal challenges and federal court rulings on policies in other cities that sought to punish developers for not meeting quotas.
The commission has seven members, meeting once a month and reviewing four to five projects. Projects that fall under their purview include any city-assisted project, or any project over 100,000 square feet.

The commission gets weekly payroll reports and makes site visits. If a contractor or developer isn’t meeting the guidelines, the commission presses for a sit-down to ask for an explanation and provide them with resources to hire local, minority, and women workers.

Bruce Bolling, a former city councillor, who testified before the committee last Thursday, called for more compliance officers at the commission. “It was for creating jobs,” Bolling said of the original proposal in the 1980s. “And quite frankly, I think the city has lost sight of that to some degree, in terms of enforcement, compliance.” Woodson said he has eight staffers, down from 11 staffers in 2000.