Local and Minority Work Dominates Informational Meeting
University City residents voice their concern over work for residents while the district stresses minority involvement.
The district, along with representatives from the McCarthy Building Company and Kwame Building Group, the construction managers on Pershing as well as the recently completed Barbara C. Jordan Elementary School, wanted to allow community members to voice any concerns they had over the project and what they could do to address them, as well as actively take a part in the projects themselves.
The presentation revolved heavily around minority participation in the building of a new Pershing Elementary school. For the first time ever, the district has put forth a policy stipulating minority participation in all facets of Proposition U construction and renovation.
Voters approved Prop U in April of 2009. Funds from the initiative financed the construction of both of the new schools – Barbara Jordan and Pershing Elementary, as well as renovations at Jackson Park and Flynn Park Elementary Schools, Brittany Woods Middle School and University City High School.
“This is the first time, after years of construction projects, that the district has put some in teeth in a contract concerning minority participation,” Board of Education President Stacy Clay told the crowd.
Chris Hosie, a representative with Kwame, announced that minority goals had been met and even surpassed during the construction of Barbara C. Jordan. He was confident that the same would happen at Pershing. Upwards of 15% of the workforce at Barbara C. Jordan was minority, with 10% of the subcontracted business going towards minority businesses, he reported.
“I’m out there every day in the field taking head counts on what our workforce is comprised of,” Hosie said. “If we’re lagging behind on our goals, we always want to have a plan to make it back up, whether it be minority involvement in the workforce or minority businesses getting contacts.”
When asked about what numbers were available for Pershing, he said the work had just started that morning, and it was too early to make any announcements.
The audience did not appear satisfied, however, as the question was constantly thrown back at the various representatives. Besides continued questions on the minority workforce and business interests, those in attendance increasingly voiced their concern over the need for a local workforce.
“I led the way raising money to get this passed, and now my own father can’t even get work on-site,’ Marva Miller, the chairwoman of the fundraising committee for Proposition U, said. “We raised the money to get this passed so that residents of University City would have work.”
Automatically, though, not just anyone in University City can walk up to one of the job sites and start work right away. Every subcontractor is union-based, and the meeting stressed the importance of making connections and getting into the trades.
“These are prevailing wage jobs. They are not required by law to be union, but all of our sub-contractors are, so you’d have to join to get in,” Craig Lucas, the vice president of Kwame, said.
The district intends on working with McCarthy and Kwame to spread the necessary information for residents to join the trades.
“There are a number of ways to get into the various trades, and we’ll be spreading information throughout the community to do just that,” Monica Bailey, the director of diversity at McCarthy, said.
“Our hope is when you reach out to these subcontractors, they’ll give you a positive reception,” Clay said. No guarantees can be made, but they were told about this meeting and what we are aiming to do. They will be expecting your calls.”