National Black Chamber of Commerce Attacks Union Barriers to Black Employment in Construction

1 November 5, 2010  Federal Construction, Uncategorized

Harry Alford, National Black Chamber of Commerce president and frequent critic of discriminatory and costly government-mandated project labor agreements (PLAs) penned another column trashing PLAs that will run in numerous newspapers across the country this week.

Harry Alford, CEO, National Black Chamber of Commerce

The piece attacks special interest schemes similar to PLAs that funnel taxpayer-funded construction jobs to union members and away from the black population because construction union members are primarily white (“PLAs: Ignorance is No Longer Bliss,” 11/3/10):

… [Construction Unions] have fought affirmative action and have excluded Black hiring in a criminal fashion.  Today, it is still close to Jim Crow and they get away with it by huddling up to the aforementioned good unions and paying off our elected officials with campaign donations and Lord knows what else.  Black unemployment is more than twice that of whites and constructions unions and their Black political lackeys have a lot to do with that.

Years ago, we would shrug our shoulders when witnessing Black politicians pushing union programs and say they were just ignorant.  The saying goes “ignorance is bliss”.  But during this recession it appears that ignorance is a cancer eating away at our economic fiber and killing our communities and causing hopelessness to our children as they reach maturity.  Ignorance can no longer be tolerated and Black politicians are going to have to find new thrills and leave the vile, racist construction union lobbies alone as they suck the economic blood from our communities.  Allow me to take you through a few examples.

I participated in a Congressional Hearing about allowing “helpers” on construction projects.  Helpers are new workers and are not apprentices.  They are kids off the streets looking for work and a way to make a living.  Nonunion shops hire them when there is a demand for new workers.  Unions were trying to outlaw this free enterprise system and block our young people from work opportunities.  There I was fighting for the rights of these nonunion shops who were hiring Blacks at the rate of 40 – 50% of their total workforce.  The opposing side included retired Black Congressman Major Owens (D-Brooklyn) and Black Congressman Bobby Scott (D-Richmond, VA).  They were fighting against this opportunity for Blacks to work as helpers and supporting the construction union position.  During the exchange I challenged them, “Why am I debating with you two about hiring Blacks.  Shouldn’t you be for the hiring of Blacks instead of trying to block them?  This is why you don’t have any Black roofers, carpenters, and electrical workers in your districts at any appreciable level.  Don’t you think this is ironic and don’t you feel uncomfortable?”  At that point they became quiet and left (3 minutes apart).

I later participated in a field hearing in Indianapolis.  It was about “salting”.  Salting is when construction unions plant union workers into a nonunion shop and cause disruption amongst the employees to the point of leading a rebellion to force the company to join the union.  The Department of Labor frowns on this but construction unions had the nerve to try and make it legal.  They brought about 150 of their goons to boo me.  The late Julia Carson was drafted to do their bidding and oppose me.  In our exchange I retorted, “Congresswoman Carson behind me are 150 construction union workers and I count 4 Blacks among them.  Is this the best they could do on this day?  This city is 23% Black and they can’t bring 3% out on their best day.   I rest my case and you should not support or defend them.”  A few minutes later, she left saying that President Clinton was calling her.  Yes, they can’t defend this so why do they support it other than for the money.

The Congressional Black Caucus continues this selling out of Black workers.  Just this month Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D – DC) put out a press release praising the Project Labor Agreement for the new headquarters of Homeland Security (a boondoggle).  A Project Labor Agreement means union only labor on the project or union only rules for anyone there.  That locks out 98% of the Black workforce and she is shouting for joy about this.  The very next day the Washington Post reported that Black unemployment in DC was actually increasing.  This can certainly be credited with the betrayal of elected officials like Congresswoman Norton.  They get it but just don’t care about those defenseless underrepresented citizens in their district that do not get a decent chance to make a living.  Clearly, Congresswoman Norton works for the enemy.  She is too intelligent to be ignorant.  She knows the deal (blocking Black employment) and plays along with it as their constituents can’t organize worthy opponents to defeat her and the others at the next election.  We are still waiting on the change.

Ignorance is not bliss.  It is duplicitous.

[Note, links added by]

Mr. Alford’s column supports recent Conrgessional testimony, previous statements from other minority, women and small business groups opposed to government-mandated PLAs and raises questions about President Obama encouraging federal agencies to require the use of PLAs on appropriate federal construction projects exceeding $25 million in total cost via Executive Order 13502.  The federal government spends millions of dollars on programs growing and supporting minority-owned businesses, yet the White House has implemented a policy that ultimately works against the intent and goals of these programs.   Mr. Alford says “President Obama is selling out blacks for union favor”  and the public shouldn’t expect help from Congressional Black Caucus and Democrats.

These are important viewpoints to seriously consider when evaluating whether a PLAs is appropriate for taxpayer-funded construction projects.

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