Making Justice Real

The Official Blog of the Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia

New Legislation Seeks to Toughen First Source Law

Monica Bell, Liman Fellow

In an earlier blog post, Legal Aid noted that the District’s failure to monitor compliance with the First Source Employment Agreement (a District law passed in 1984 which requires that 51% of the employees hired for City-funded development projects be District residents and that the jobs pay a living wage) has cost District residents jobs at a time when 1 in 10 District residents, and about 30% of Ward 8 residents, are unemployed. On January 18, 2011, D.C. Council Chair Kwame Brown, along with Councilmembers Michael Brown (At-Large) and Harry Thomas, Jr. (Ward 5), introduced legislation that aims to remedy this problem.

B19-0050, the “District of Columbia Workforce Intermediary Establishment and Reform of First Source and Living Wage Act of 2011,” proposes to strengthen the First Source and Living Wage laws by, among other things:

  • Mandating that 20% of non-construction hours worked on government-assisted projects be performed by District residents;
  • Requiring that each government-assisted construction project totaling $300,000 or more allocate certain numbers of hours to District residents;
  • Requiring documentation of best efforts to comply with the First Source law before receiving a waiver from it; and
  • Stiffening the penalty for willful noncompliance, raising the potential fine from 5% to 10% of direct and indirect contract labor costs.

Read the full text of the proposed legislation here. While at first glance, the bill seems positive, we note that the law will only be effective if the District dramatically improves its monitoring of compliance with the First Source and Living Wage laws. Developing a more effective enforcement mechanism will be essential if the District plans to rely on First Source to stem its high and unequally distributed unemployment rate.

To learn more about efforts to reform First Source, see the following resources:

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