The Board of Supervisors voted this week to give preference to military veterans when hiring construction workers for county projects.
Supervisors Mark Ridley-Thomas proposed the preferential hiring program to aid returning veterans in finding jobs.
"This motion is about recognizing the value of veterans as workers, which does not always happen without a push," Ridley-Thomas said. "Our board has always felt a duty to ensure veterans receive the public acknowledgment and respect they deserve."
Unemployment rates among veterans are significantly higher than those in the general population.
Ridley-Thomas cited a study calculating the jobless rates for local veterans at 13.8 percent when the overall county rate stood at 11.4 percent.
The national unemployment rate for those who served in the military post- 9/11 was 10 percent in October, while the jobless rate for all U.S. veterans was 6.9 percent that month, according to the Council of Economic Advisers.
Just how many county jobs are at stake is not clear. Hundreds of millions of dollars will be spent on capital projects that generate thousands of jobs, according to Ridley-Thomas, but the outreach to veterans will be voluntary and rely on contractors' best efforts. Details for the hiring plan have yet to be worked out.
Veterans interested in the jobs must be Los Angeles County residents and enrolled in or have completed an apprenticeship program designed for a career in the construction trade.
Supervisor Michael Antonovich, who joined Ridley-Thomas in bringing the motion to the board, said veterans represent a well-trained workforce, even if they lack the licensing and union contacts to readily move into construction jobs.
"These men and woman need employment. They're trained, they're disciplined, they're ready to work," Antonovich said. "We're finding hope and opportunity for our returning veterans."
—City News Service