Now that the board of the Metropolitan Transit Agency (MTA) has given staff the go-ahead to begin negotiating a project labor agreement (PLA) construction careers policy with the Los Angeles and Orange County Construction Trade Council, the best way to ensure Black workers have equal access to the jobs that will be created by this new policy is to make sure the new agreement is properly enforced.

Lola Smallwood Cuevas, coordinator for the Los Angeles Black Worker Center and a strong advocate for the new effort, says the PLA legislation offers the MTA opportunity for the agency “to show leadership and usher in a new era to enforce anti-discrimination laws ensuring that Black workers, who are among the hardest hit (in terms of unemployment) have equal job opportunities.

“The MTA can create good union jobs that lead workers out of poverty by implementing hiring protocol for all qualified workers to have equal job access that is free of discrimination.”

Smallwood-Cuevas said the next step is proper enforcement, which should include a centralized monitoring system to track and enforce work force diversity.

But before this can happen, the PLA agreement, which passed on a 11-1 vote of the MTA board last Thursday, must be crafted and ratified.

According to Dan Rosenfeld, economic senior deputy with Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, co-author of the legislation, 30 percent of the jobs must be in ZIP codes with high unemployment and of that total, 10 percent must be provided to disadvantaged workers.

If a construction project is not federally funded, the ZIP codes of high unemployment are the first tier considered, and a second tier is those areas within five miles of the project where the unemployment rate is 150 percent of the county average.

For federally funded projects, the unemployment figure is 200 percent of the county average on the first tier and 150 percent on the second tier. If a project utilizes both federal and non-federal money, the federal rules apply.

To be eligible for designation as a disadvantaged worker, individuals must meet at least one of the following criteria: be in a household with an income of less than 50 percent of the area median rate; be homeless; a custodial single parent; receive public assistance; lack a GED or high school diploma; have a history of involvement with the justice system or be chronically unemployed.

Additionally, the PLA must contain an apprenticeship program targeting no- or low-skill residents for the high-wage construction jobs.