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Expanding Economic Opportunities

ILR research shows community work force agreements are effective

Community work force agreements – increasingly common provisions of project labor agreements that often require developers and municipalities meet social investment and local hiring standards – have expanded job opportunities for returning veterans, women and minorities, according to research launched today by ILR in New York City.

The agreements are one key to preserving and expanding a healthy middle class, according to the report.

ILR researchers examined 185 project labor agreements administered by 70 building trade councils nationwide during the past 15 years. The study also features three detailed case studies, including New York City’s community work force provisions.

"Community work force provisions in project labor agreements represent an innovative idea that has been used to create new construction career opportunities for underrepresented populations in a number of U.S. cities," said study co-author Jeff Grabelsky, report researcher and Construction Industry Program director at ILR. "We wanted to know if CWAs represent a new and promising trend, and our research indicates they do."

The report, supported by a grant from American Rights at Work, found that 139 of the PLAs examined included community work force agreements that promoted the hiring of veterans, 103 required hiring of women and underrepresented minorities, 100 featured apprenticeship programs, and 70 set goals for hiring local workers. While there was significant variation based on region, the study found that community work force agreements are on the rise, are becoming increasingly comprehensive, and play a key role in expanding economic opportunities and overall community vitality.

Maria Figueroa, researcher and Labor and Industry Research director at ILR, said, "We are confident that if we can influence the public discourse on how construction can be an engine for shared economic prosperity, CWAs will be even more widely used as an effective instrument of public policy."

The study was also co-authored by  ILR Research Associate Ryan Lamare.