LA County Considers Asking Contractors to Hire More Veterans

Nov 16, 2015

The L.A. County Board of Supervisors is considering asking all vendors bidding on major county construction contracts to hire more military veterans.

The measure was first proposed by supervisors Mark Ridley-Thomas and Mike Antonovich in 2014, and the county's been studying it ever since. A vote is scheduled for November 24.

The rule — a goal more than a mandate — would apply to all "major" construction contracts, meaning those valued at $2.5 million and above. It would ask contractors to ensure at least 5 percent of work hours under such contracts be performed by people who've served in uniform.

"Veterans are a prime community in which to hire because they already have the skills that many of the contractors are looking for," said Ruth Wong, the director of L.A. County's Department of Military and Veterans Affairs.

Supervisor Michael Antonovich says providing more work opportunities to veterans makes economic sense.
Credit Andres Aguila/KPCC

She said the county studied the idea for two years before coming to the conclusion it makes economic sense — the county has been looking for ways to reduce the unemployment rate amongst veterans, and lucrative construction contracts are a good start.

In recent years the unemployment rate among L.A. County veterans was around 10 percent — a point higher than that of the general population. But now Wong says it's down around 6 to 7 percent, which is equivalent to the L.A. County average.

Wong hopes this proposal can lower veteran unemployment even further.

Debra Mendelsohn, who serves as a deputy to L.A. County Supervisor Mike Antonovich, said "it is our hope that through this new program that we will be able to encourage the use of veteran contractors and veteran workers on construction projects in Los Angeles County."

The rule wouldn't be mandatory. Contractors would have to make a "good faith effort" to comply, but making a veteran hiring guarantee could serve as a tie-breaker in tight competition for contracts.

It also wouldn't help some of the county's most vulnerable veterans — those who were discharged with so-called "bad papers." Such veterans, who receive anything less than an honorable discharge, are nine times more likely to become homeless than the population as a whole.

The proposal would also mostly provide access to jobs on the lower end of the pay scale.

Wong said the county has not yet looked into how to create more professional and managerial opportunities for veterans.