The Lodi City Council voiced support for drafting a local hiring ordinance that would require city contractors to make an effort to hire local workers.
Councilwoman JoAnne Mounce originally suggested the idea to promote hiring locally.
“As council members, we all know when you hire local and they live in the city where they work, their tax dollars stay here,” she said.
Under the ordinance, contractors would have to make their best effort to hire locally, but the ordinance would not work like a quota, City Attorney Steve Schwabauer said.
Construction companies would need to try a variety of ways to find qualified local workers for projects, like advertising at a local builders exchange, union halls or in the local newspaper or holding a hiring fair in a city building, he said.
But a contractor would still be allowed to do the job if they did not reach the recommended percentage and turned in documents showing that they tried, Schwabauer said.
When most people think of local ordinance, he said they envision a contractor being required to hire a certain percentage of their workforce locally.
But those types of ordinances have faced several legal challenges from people who say it violates the U.S. Constitution or the California Constitution’s right to work and travel. An ordinance with a quota could also violate the Public Contracts Code, which requires cities to hire the lowest bidders for Public Works contracts.
Other ordinances requiring contractors to make a good faith effort do not have the same legal hurdles and have been used by Stockton and San Joaquin County.
But other cities like Galt have rejected any type of local hiring ordinance. The Galt City Council rejected an idea in December 2009, and then rejected it again in March 2010 when local resident Gene Davenport requested the council put the ordinance on the ballot.
Making sure the city would not have legal problems from an ordinance was one of Councilman Larry Hansen’s main concerns.
“I just think we’ve got to tread very careful. “If we do come up with something, we do not want to open Pandora’s box for potential lawsuits,” he said.
He also had concerns that companies might not bid on projects because of the added cost to hire locally.
“When you are spending the public dollar, you need to be as economical as you can with awarding bids on projects,” he said.
When drafting the ordinance, Schwabauer plans to meet with local contractors to get a sense of how an ordinance could affect their business.
“I need to get a feel (for) whether people would really balk at bidding if they had to do the extra paperwork to meet the local hiring ordinance,” he said.
He also wants to get an idea of what should be defined as “local,” because some crafts might not have enough qualified workers in Lodi. Mounce recommended Schwabauer consider including all of San Joaquin County.
Local contractor Bill Meehleis said he opposes an ordinance, and said city staff will have more work too.
“The paperwork for the city staff is going to overwhelm you just to keep track of it,” he said.
Some businesses have concerns about these types of ordinances because they have been crafted poorly or misused in the past, said Nicole Goehring, government affairs director for Associated Builders and Contractors.
She said her nonprofit organization, representing general and sub contractors is not opposed to the concept of local hire, but they have concerns.
“We are concerned with smaller contractors with the paperwork that might be required. It might discourage bidders,” she said.
She also stressed that the ordinance needs to be inclusive for both union and non-union contractors.
Mounce recommended the city find a way to reduce the paperwork and work with contractors in drafting the ordinance.
“We want to see our brothers and sisters and parents and family working in town if possible. ... It’s part of our responsibility as community leaders,” she said.