A vote to authorize a $500 million effort to overhaul city-owned buildings and parks might be delayed into the fall, if some on Philadelphia City Council get their way.
Councilwoman María Quiñones-Sánchez, who has been one of the most vocal critics of the Kenney administration’s labor inclusion plans for Rebuild, said she couldn’t see those issues being resolved in time for a planned Thursday vote.
“I appreciate the administration's efforts,” she said. “That is why we should wait until the fall to develop a historic agreement to provide real employment access to the building trades.”
Council has long viewed the half-billion dollar Rebuild as a key opportunity to promote the longstanding goal of diversifying the city’s trades unions – whose membership is disproportionately white and suburban – while others have looked at the program as a way to expand Council control over historically scarce dollars for renovating libraries, parks and rec centers. While the administration has agreed to concessions on the structure of the program, Sánchez, in particular, has repeatedly assailed the lack of concrete steps for promoting labor inclusion.
Sánchez has called for an agreement from building trades mandating a “pathway” to union membership for minority applicants and heavy monitoring of worker demographics. Language in an amended version of the bill relies heavily on pre-apprenticeship programs, which have a mixed track record.
The Kenney administration countered that it had already agreed to other, sweeping inclusion measures at Council’s behest – committing to 45 percent minority labor participation in the first year, with 50 percent of jobs going to city residents.
“Thanks to Council’s amendments, Rebuild now has one of the most robust and ambitious diversity programs in recent memory,” said David Gould, the city’s deputy director of community engagement for Rebuild. “With that in mind, the time is now to pass this bill. These facilities are in desperate need of repair and Philadelphians are in desperate need of work. They need us to start this program now, not four months from now.”
Sources close to Council President Darrell Clarke's office said they were still “optimistic” about passage. A staffer for Councilwoman Cherelle Parker, another frequent critic of trades diversity, was similarly cheery but said there was still work to be done. Neither office gave specifics about what was missing from the current version of the bill.
After months of negotiations and delayed votes, Council sources this week were split on whether they thought the Rebuild legislation would actually see a final vote on Thursday.
“I think the more they (Council) delay, the more control they think they’ll get over it,” said one source.