No Seat At the Table

Today’s panel discussion on the morning show about unions, diversity and a poll for mayor, served as fervent and substantive discussion on the radical difference between our two mayoral candidates, John Connolly and Marty Walsh and how our choice will impact communities of color. Indeed, last night’s debate around Marty Walsh’s union ties and arbitration is clearly the tip off!

Yes, many unions do great work, but given the current development boom and the prospect of that boom dominating the economy of our city, it’s fair to shine a light on only the trade unions, unions that have historically excluded people of color and continue to do so.

Which brings us to the man who would be mayor. For me, and trust for the vast majority of folks of color, the following excerpt from a story written by Bruce Mohl and Colman M Herman in this month’s Commonwealth Magazine speaks volumes:

“In some ways, it’s hard to understand why it took Walsh a campaign for mayor to realize the challenge of diversity in Boston. When he took over as head of the Boston Building Trades Council in 2011, the problem was staring him in the face. The 19 union leaders sitting around the table at council meetings were all white, and the leadership of their individual unions was roughly 90 percent white. Rank and file members were predominantly white as well, although exact numbers are unavailable.”

Why is diversity in the building trades a revelation just now? When lack of diversity from a business perspective is why: a $53 million dollar project at 225 Centre Street in Jackson Square yielded less than 1% for local businesses of color, falling well short the 25% goal; no MBE goal existed for the Ferdinand building; a mystifying posted MBE utilization number of 15% at Ferdinand’s will be an order of magnitude less after the scrutinizing dust clears and folks have moved on; a project labor agreement (PLA) for UMass Boston worth $780 million dollars excludes 80-95% of all businesses of color from bidding on work because the agreement stipulates union only and no open-shops.

These are all examples trade unions protecting their interests, the result of which keeps businesses and workers of color locked out of opportunity.

It’s not enough that Marty Walsh and building pathways lay claim to getting 54 graduates of color through a program to get them into the union. Our current building boom is calling for 7000 – 8000 construction positions be filled. We’re way behind because we insist all parties be in the union and don’t allow open-shops. We cannot train our way out of this one and importing workers from other locations is not an option!

So look around folks. We’re not at the table! When you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu! And Marty Walsh and his union folk are feasting on our bones! Marty is not our man for mayor!


-Rodney Singleton


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