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Walsh Issues Boston Order After Disparity Study

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

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Labor secretary nominee, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, announced an executive order last week that aims to create a framework to “enact race- and gender- conscious procurement goals.” The order comes after the completion of a disparity study that looked at minority- and woman-owned businesses in city contracts across all industries between July 1, 2014, and June 30, 2019.

“My administration has prioritized equity across all aspects of city government since day one, and the results of this study, while unsurprising, confirm long-held concerns about disparities in municipal contracting,” said Walsh.

“We launched the first disparity study in a generation because we needed an independent and objective analysis before we could legally establish goals that will help us level the playing field for minority- and woman-owned businesses. With the study now complete, we look forward to enacting meaningful reform and policy changes that will bolster opportunities for underrepresented businesses.”

vichie81 / Getty Images

Labor secretary nominee, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, announced an executive order last week that aims to create a framework to “enact race- and gender- conscious procurement goals.”

Before the study, Boston had relied on race- and gender-neutral measures to encourage participation of all business in municipal contracting. The new executive order acknowledges that this is not enough and established the Supplier Diversity Program with a $2 million investment to implement new initiatives to expand opportunities.

The executive order enacts several key items, including:

  • Establishing a goal to utilize at least 25% minority- and woman-owned businesses across all contracts awarded in any fiscal year, with a goal of 15% utilization for woman-owned businesses and a goal of 10% utilization for minority-owned businesses;
  • Requiring goal tracking and reporting as part of the annual budget process beginning with the Fiscal Year 2023; and
  • Instituting the Supplier Diversity Program to oversee the implementation of this order.

The study was done by BBC Research and Consulting and was the first disparity study conducted in 18 years.

To aid the Supplier Diversity Program, a technical assistance program will also be launched. The city is hosting three community briefings to share results of the study as well as the immediate next steps of the executive order. Those meetings are to take place March 3, noon – 2 p.m. and 6-8 p.m., and March 5, 8-10 a.m.

In addition to these briefings, an eye is on next week for Walsh’s Senate confirmation. The U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee votes 18-4 to advance Walsh’s cabinet nomination to the full Senate vote, which has yet to be scheduled.

Should he be confirmed before March 5, Boston is required to hold a special election ahead of the already-scheduled mayoral race this year. However, city council is working on override that requirement, citing costs amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Assuming a special election does not take place, Boston City Council President Kim Janey would step in as acting mayor until the fall race is complete.

Walsh Hearing

At his hearing at the beginning of the month, Walsh doubled down on what he says is a commitment to equity and education in the workplace. He also briefly spoke on standards implemented during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Early on in the proceedings, Sen. Richard Burr (R-North Carolina) asked Walsh about OSHA’s recently issued guidance for employers regarding COVID-19. To which Walsh replied that “OSHA should not be an ‘us’ versus ‘them,’” adding that the priority is to protect workers on the jobsite.

U.S. Department of the Interior, CC-BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The order comes after the completion of a disparity study that looked at minority- and woman-owned businesses in city contracts across all industries between July 1, 2014, and June 30, 2019.

He was also asked about the Protecting the Right to Organize Act. Critics worry that the act would interfere with “right to work” laws in some states, which state that every worker has the right to not be affiliated with a union.

To this, Walsh agreed, saying, “I think the worker has every right to choose what they believe,” but also added that the PRO Act could make it possible to organize more freely.

Walsh also said that OSHA would be one of his top priorities, and that he agrees with President Joe Biden’s plan to increase the number of inspectors. However, he also stressed the need for more job training programs, particularly for workers displaced by both the pandemic and recent pause/halt decisions on larger projects.

He vowed to pursue collaborations with agencies such as the U.S. Departments of Commerce and Education to provide these training opportunities.

Walsh, who is currently serving his second term as Boston’s mayor, has served as head of both Laborers’ Union Local 223 (which he joined at age 21) and the Boston Metropolitan District Building Trades Council. He is also the current Chairman of Climate Mayors, a group of 470 mayors who aim to create jobs by investing in clean energy.

Biden announced the nomination at the beginning of the year. If confirmed, Walsh will be the first union member to serve in this role in nearly half a century.

In Boston

That Trades Council Background was touted last year as Walsh was led Boston as the first U.S. city to halt construction activities amid the COVID-19 pandemic. On March 17, Walsh made the announcement to initially ban construction for 14 days.

At the time, Walsh stopped all projects except for those deemed emergent, which included:

  • emergency utility, road or building work, such as gas leaks, water leaks and sinkholes;
  • new utility connections to occupied buildings;
  • mandated building or utility work;
  • work at public health facilities, healthcare facilities, shelters, including temporary shelters and other facilities that support vulnerable populations;
  • work which ensures the reliability of the transportation network; and
  • other work necessary to render occupied residential buildings fully habitable.

The city also implemented a case-by-case evaluation system.

At the time, Walsh’s work with the Building Trades Council was brought up as the group publicly supported the move. Other groups, such as the Associated General Contractors of America, spoke out against entire shutdowns.

By the end of March, Boston extended the moratorium indefinitely.

"The safety and health of construction workers and all residents of Boston is my first priority, and I am not willing to put that at risk as the virus spreads throughout our communities," said Walsh at the time.

Then, at the end of April, Walsh and Boston’s Chief Operations Officer Patrick Brophy began rolling out safety guidelines for construction’s return and a timeline was put in place for reopening the industry at the beginning of May, with most coming back online by June.

In the fall, at a topping-off ceremony, Walsh said that the rest of the city could learn from construction’s reopening success.

“They put incredible safety protocols in place on these job sites,” Walsh told reporters at the time. “As you can see, every construction worker’s wearing a mask. You know they have temperature checks, and they do all that here, so this is really an industry that we can learn from how to reopen—and reopen safely.”


Tagged categories: Bidding; Contract awards; Contracts; Good Technical Practice; Government; Government contracts; Laws and litigation; NA; North America

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