This is part seven of my series entitled “End Philly’s Jim Crow Hiring and Business.” I had hoped things would have improved for all Black workers in this city since part one was published on September 10, 2016. But they haven’t.
I also had hoped things would have improved for Black construction-related labor workers in this city since Council last year approved its “Rebuild” legislation and Mayor Jim Kenney five days later announced his “Rebuild” Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). But they haven’t.
In fact, they got worse. Kenney fired off a May 11, 2018 letter to City Council President Darrell Clarke basically accusing Council of maliciously dragging its feet by reneging on its June 22, 2017 “Rebuild” legislation agreement. More about that later.
But, first, I must define “Rebuild.” It’s the $500 million taxpayer-funded project designed to include during more than five years up to about 200 projects requiring 45 percent minority participation- but only 27 percent earmarked specifically for Black participation- at recreation centers, parks, and libraries to upgrade dilapidated bathrooms, resurface worn-out basketball courts, and patch leaky roofs. Um... OK... but what about Black workers being hired to build skyscrapers and stuff? Never mind.
Although both Council and the Mayor were well-intentioned and were acting in good faith to finally end Philly’s long history of union racism, both kinda/sorta screwed up.
Here’s how Council screwed up: It passed that supposed increased diversity “Rebuild” legislation with insufficient goals for so-called minority hires.
Admittedly, I’d like to use the terms “quotas and set-asides” instead of “goals.” But, as an attorney, I can’t because I know that would be unlawful so-called reverse discrimination despite the fact that white America continues to reap the benefits of the 100 percent quotas and set-asides it had for whites from the beginning of slavery in 1619 to passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and beyond. It also screwed up by passing that legislation with no enforcement. Mere termination of a contractor’s services for non-compliance, as set forth in the legislation, is neither enforcement nor incentive for compliance.
Moreover, there’s unlikely to be any termination for non-compliance since there’s no Plan B to replace non-compliant contractors. Also, Council failed to insist upon getting signatures not just from the Business Manager of Local 98 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) but also from the Business Managers/Presidents of each of the 31 Philly-area building trades unions from Boilermakers Local 13 through Teamsters Local 312.
Here’s how the Mayor screwed up: He signed the supposed increased diversity “Rebuild” MOU on May 3, 2018 without permitting Council to have a seat at the table during his negotiations with the Philadelphia Building and Construction Trades Council (PBCTC). He also screwed up by allowing the PBCTC to, in effect, dictate the terms of that document. That’s like assigning the fox to guard the hen house.
The PBCTC is the same group of white male Mummers and suburbanites who, in 2016, was responsible for nearly 65 percent of small, city-funded construction projects having absolutely no Blacks on the workforce. None. And as of 2013, which is when the most reliable figures are available, about 80 percent of the PBCTC carpenters, electricians, painters, etc. were white.
And here’s how both Council and the Mayor screwed up together: They included an apprenticeship clause that, by itself, isn’t worth the paper it’s written on because many Blacks whom the white unions refuse to hire already have apprenticeship training.
I mean no disrespect to white women and other so-called “minorities” by saying this. But my concern is for Blacks because they were the only ones whose ancestors were kidnapped, sold, and enslaved and the only ones who were lynched, forced into sharecropping, relegated to second-class citizenship through local, state, and federal laws, victimized by Jim Crow, denied education and vocational training, and the only ones who are still discriminated against in employment more than anyone else. You don’t believe me? Then trade places with the average Black person in America. What- no takers?
This city needs a new “Philadelphia Order” but not like President Richard Nixon’s 1969 “Philadelphia Order” that was supposedly designed to “guarantee fair hiring practices in construction jobs.” It was called the “Philadelphia Order” because, as Nixon’s Assistant Secretary of Labor, Arthur Fletcher, stated, “The... unions and construction industry (in Philadelphia) are among the most egregious offenders against equal opportunity... openly hostile toward letting Blacks into their closed circle.” Four years earlier, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed Executive Order 11246, widely known as the “Philadelphia Plan,” supposedly to end racist hiring practices in construction jobs. It was called the “Philadelphia Plan” because of Philly’s national reputation for racism in its unions.
Although I accused several of my good friends in Council and my good friend, the Mayor, of screwing up in their good faith and well-intentioned goal of access and opportunity for Black construction workers, it ain’t too late for them to fix up. And they can do it by stop taking orders from John “Johnny Doc” Dougherty, Business Manager of PBCTC as well as of Local 98 of the IBEW. Why are they so beholden to him? Why are they so afraid of him? Didn’t they learn from underdog Larry Farnese who beat him in a political battle ten years ago in 2008 for the First District State Senate spot? Didn’t they learn from little David who beat Goliath in a physical battle 3,038 years ago in 1020 BC?
We all know Dougherty has power in the form of money to spend for candidates, but it’s the voters who have even more power in the form of votes to cast for candidates.
Council and the Mayor can fix up by renegotiating to improve the legislation and the MOU to include an increase in the number of Blacks, to include skilled as well as apprentice positions, and to include signatures from heads of all local building trades unions. I know Dougherty claims he’s not going to renegotiate and has stated, “That’s the only deal they’re getting from me!” But it’s not up to him. It’s up to the elected officials who are obligated to the voters- most notably, Black voters. And if we gotta vote certain people out to get other people in, that’s what we’ll do, even if it means “Rebuild” and all other construction projects come to a complete standstill for weeks, months, or longer.
I applaud the Mayor for his insistence that youngsters (notably Black youngsters) have access to and opportunity for enjoyment at upgraded rec centers and parks. I also applaud Council for its insistence that the parents (notably Black parents) have access to and opportunity for employment so their kids can be provided with food, clothing, shelter, and healthcare, thereby making it possible for those youngsters to truly have fun at rec centers and parks.
Playing ball is good. But paying bills is even better.