April 3, 2013

Weekly RoundUp: Minorities in the construction field

Print
File Photo / A construction site at the University of Illinois

Dusty Rhodes

File Photo / A construction site at the University of Illinois

Last week, The News-Gazette reported that a Peoria-based construction company was ordered to pay $1.5 million in restitution for falsely claiming it would hire minority subcontractors as part of winning multi-million dollar contracts for construction work at two state universities. Updated: $1.5 million restitution ordered in fraud by Lincoln Hall contractor

Journalist Dusty Rhodes covered the complex issue of minorities in the construction industry for CU-CitizenAccess in a multimedia project published in 2010.

Here, we revisit the series “Unlevel Foundation”:

Racial disparities persist across local trade unions

“The next time you drive past a construction site, take a close look at the workers. Besides the hard hats and the steel-toed boots, you might notice that they have something else in common: Virtually all are white males.

Statistics verify these drive-by observations.

The local bricklayers union, which represents 65 downstate counties including the East St.Louis area, has 1,309 members. That total includes two females and 35 African-American men, making the organization about 2.7 percent black.

The plumbers and pipefitters union local, which encompasses Champaign County and most of the seven surrounding counties, has approximately 450 members, including six females and 16 African-American men making it about 3.6 percent minority.”

New law, big impact

“Illinois legislative effort to level the playing field for minority- and female-owned businesses comes down to a single sentence, and a simple one at that: Those who submit bids or proposals for State contracts shall not be given a period after the bid or proposal is submitted to cure deficiencies . . . .

Senate Bill 351, enacted five months ago, has already been responsible for the disqualification of numerous bids. “In one case, we have gone down to the 10th lowest bidder,”Jesse Martinez told a room full of contractors.

These sessions are necessary because the subtle change in the law seems minor, but it isn’t. Prior to the passage of 351, when a contractor bid on a state project, the contractor could arrive at a projected cost for the work using subcontractors who were all white male.”

Video: Historical exclusion

All it takes is a hard hat, work boots and a GED. So why aren’t more minorities employed in the construction industry?