Community and labor activists have been agitating for more jobs to be filled locally for the building of Metro’s subway and light rail lines. But federal regulations have been a roadblock. Congress took a big step this week to change the rules.
It was one of those small provisions tucked away in federal law that says that if you receive federal funding for a transportation project, you can’t give preferential hiring to local residents. Given the billions of federal dollars coming to Los Angeles for Metro projects, L.A. Democrat Karen Bass says House passage of her legislation to change the law is particularly timely, given local unemployment rates, "in particular in some of the areas where the light rail is going through, there absolutely needs to be an emphasis on local hiring."
Bass’ provision was included in the transportation bill passed Tuesday night by the House. It now goes to the Senate. President Obama signaled his support for the “hire local” provision when he included it in his new budget.
Metro welcomed the vote. Arthur T. Leahy, Chief Executive Officer of the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, said with local voters agreeing to tax themselves for transportation projects, "Metro would welcome the ability to establish local hire programs on partial federally funded projects" that would bring "tens of thousands of good-paying jobs to our region.”
Bass says, if the bill goes into law, hiring could begin on Metro projects before the end of the year.