Louisiana First legislation connects local workers to protection and restoration jobs

By jlee

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Baton Rouge, LA – International relief and development organization Oxfam America praised Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal for signing the “Louisiana First Hiring Act” into law, encouraging employers to seek Louisiana workers in the state’s coastal restoration and protection projects. The new law opens a window of economic opportunity to local workers in projects planned under the state’s newly approved the $50 billion Coastal Master Plan for flood protection and ecosystem restoration, while providing important data on hiring, job trends and training to help provide businesses with a better prepared Louisiana workforce. 

Louisiana’s coastal projects are expected to receive a boost from BP Oil Spill resources and funding under the Natural Resource Damage Assessment process and the proposed RESTORE the Gulf Coast Act, which is now being considered in the US Congress. The spill and coastal land loss have harmed communities and industries like the fisheries, and these new resources promise to provide new economic opportunities for working families. In the effort to strengthen the coastal economy and support economic development, a diverse coalition of legislators and community groups worked with the Louisiana legislature to pass the “Louisiana First” bill.

“This innovative approach looks beyond the environmental and engineering challenges of Louisiana’s coastal land loss and recovery from the oil spill, focusing on the heart of the problem: the coastal communities and working families at risk,” said Minor Sinclair, US Regional Director of Oxfam America. “The challenge is to tackle the environmental risks while we revitalize the local economy and life of these communities as they adapt. This bill will put people back to work as the Master Plan proceeds, helping ensure the economic vitality of these vulnerable communities.”

Under the law, coastal restoration or protection contractors will outline employment plans once the contract has been awarded. The plan may include such items as types of jobs involved in a project; skill level required; wage information; how the contractor will recruit disadvantaged, low wage and unemployed applicants. The Louisiana Workforce Commission can then use this information to offer better services to employers to line up qualified applicants, or coordinate efforts to begin training workers for available jobs through its local workforce investment boards and partners.

“I'm proud to be part of this landmark legislation which protects jobs for Louisiana residents,” said District 91 State Representative Walter "Walt" J. Leger, III (D-New Orleans) who advocated for the legislation. “This legislation will strengthen our communities by making sure federal disaster dollars that come to Louisiana are spent here, creating real jobs across the entire state.”

“Business owners are invested in the health of our communities, and are eager to use local workforce where practical,” said Scott Kirkpatrick, President of Coast Builders Coalition. “This legislation should improve the interaction between contractors and the Louisiana Workforce Commission.”

New research from Mather Economics this week indicates the RESTORE Act would create as many as 58,000 jobs, including many coastal restoration and protection jobs in Louisiana. The Louisiana First bill will help coastal residents have access to higher than average wages and will create  opportunities for economic mobility in high-growth industries and occupations.

“Louisiana is facing some big problems, but we also have a great opportunity with this money from the RESTORE Act coming along,” said Clint Guidry, President of the Louisiana Shrimp Association. “And this bill helps move us toward so many goals: by employing local people, especially in restoration projects, we revitalize our local economy and preserve our historical fishing communities. We thank Louisiana’s leaders for making this a reality.”

“This is a major victory for the region,” said Telley Madina, Coastal Communities Program Officer for Oxfam America, based in Louisiana. “Louisiana is so often among the last to get resources. Great thanks go to the delegation from the Coast who helped move the legislation along.”