Community Benefit Agreement versus the Workforce Development Agreement Program

William T. Robinson, Jr.

William T. Robinson, Jr.

Many African Americans seem to be confused about the Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) and the Metropolitan Government Workforce Development Program. While the CBA is sponsored by Councilwoman Erica Gilmore and will be introduced to the Metropolitan Council on August 20, the Workforce Development Program is co-sponsored by Councilmen Jerry Maynard and Lonnell Matthews and passed the first reading before Metro Council on August 6. The truth is that both of these plans are different and do not conflict with each other. Even Maynard stated at the most recent Minority Caucus meeting on August 12 that both plans are not in conflict.

Both programs initiated in various cities throughout the nation have been supported by a plethora of civil right groups such as the NAACP, the Urban League, and Black elected officials around the country.  However, labor unions, anti-poverty groups, especially faith-based organizations working on poverty reduction policies, favor CBAs because they usually authorize specific goals to reduce systemic poverty.

The CBA is a premier policy specifically targeting disadvantaged (low income) workers and residents for large-scale projects above $2.5 million. Some of the disadvantaged persons targeted include veterans of the Armed Forces of the United States, custodial single parents, ex-offenders, those suffering from chronic unemployment or underemployment, homeless or transitional housing residents, those receiving public assistance, and those lacking a GED or high school diploma, those emancipated from the foster care system, and other residents from distressed communities. The CBA will require 10% of total work hours be allocated to disadvantaged populations; 30% of total work hours on projects to individuals with employment barriers who live in zip codes where the median household is below $ 40,000; and 20% of total non–construction work hours on projects designated for individuals who live in zip codes where the median household income is below  $40,000.

The Workforce Development Agreement is a workforce program targeting disadvantaged business (small minority, women-owned).

This program will provide tax incentives to companies that use the diversified business enterprise (DBE) program through TIF (Tax Increment Financing) and PILOT (Payments in Lieu of Taxes) programs. Creating TIF districts is not automatic, making it necessary to pass additional legislation authorizing projects. An argument that must be entertained is that with the Workforce Development agreement, Black businesses may not be necessarily selected. There is contention from Black contractors that they are excluded from other Workforce Agreement programs, passed over for businesses owned by White women, small (White-owned) businesses, and other non-Black businesses. In fact, the firms do not have to be local firms thus catering to out of state workers.

The bottom line is that the Community Benefits Agreement supports or targets people for employment and the Workforce Development Agreement targets businesses. The CBA will provide a steadfast policy with teeth that is law opposed to the Workforce Agreement that can be dropped or compromised.

Each plan has broad distinctions and it is up to the Metro Council to show their loyalty.

Will it be in favor of the constituents whom the Metro Council is supposed to represent, or will they bow down to lobbyists or special interest groups representing businesses? If you are unhappy with the vote, remember the stance your council representative took when you vote again.