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Jobs now!

November 29, 2009

Bay Area Black Builders, uniting workers and contractors, will stop at nothing until our community is working again!

by Joseph Debro

“No Blacks working! That’s what I see at every construction jobsite in San Francisco,” exclaims Willie Ratcliff, Bay View publisher, lifelong construction worker and contractor, owner of Liberty Builders and first vice president of Bay Area Black Builders. “Stimulus funds are hard at work, but Blacks aren’t – even though those funds are supposed to put the communities hardest hit back to work. The Coalition for Economic Equity pushed hard and convinced Caltrans to reinstate race-conscious goals for stimulus-funded work, yet still I see no Blacks working. Statistics are hard to find, but Time magazine reports that Black contractors in Florida and Illinois have less than 2 percent of the stimulus work. And a Washington Post headline screams “34.5 percent” unemployment for young Black men. It’s so bad the Congressional Black Caucus shut down a major vote to protest deepening unemployment. For weeks I’ve been monitoring a stimulus streetscape project on Divisadero in what used to be San Francisco’s Black heartland – no Blacks working there … until finally I spotted one young brother the day before Thanksgiving. With no Black contractor in charge, though, they might not keep him on.” – Photo: Francisco Da Costa
“No Blacks working! That’s what I see at every construction jobsite in San Francisco,” exclaims Willie Ratcliff, Bay View publisher, lifelong construction worker and contractor, owner of Liberty Builders and first vice president of Bay Area Black Builders. “Stimulus funds are hard at work, but Blacks aren’t – even though those funds are supposed to put the communities hardest hit back to work. The Coalition for Economic Equity pushed hard and convinced Caltrans to reinstate race-conscious goals for stimulus-funded work, yet still I see no Blacks working. Statistics are hard to find, but Time magazine reports on Nov. 23 that Black contractors in Florida and Illinois have less than 2 percent of the stimulus work. And a Washington Post headline Nov. 24 screams “34.5 percent” unemployment for young Black men. Even Fox News reported Nov. 18 that in some communities half of Black men are out of work. It’s so bad the Congressional Black Caucus on Nov. 19 shut down a major vote to protest deepening unemployment. For weeks I’ve been monitoring a stimulus streetscape project on Divisadero in what used to be San Francisco’s Black heartland – no Blacks working there … until finally I spotted one young brother the day before Thanksgiving. With no Black contractor in charge, though, they might not keep him on.” – Photo: Francisco Da Costa
When America talks about unemployment percentages around 10 percent, I know they are talking about white people. It is talked about as an alarming figure. As a Black man, I am not alarmed. If that were the number in my community, I would rejoice.

The unemployment is so high in the Black community the government does not even try to measure it. No foundation has awarded any grants to pay for the gathering of such information. Most of the Black young men who drop out of school have no way to enter the labor force. Most of the young Black women who mate with them enter the public assistance community and never enter the workforce. How would you measure these two communities? Any anecdotal evidence examined places the unemployment percentage in the Black community north of 30 percent.

No Blacks working on this stretch of Divisadero - Photo: Francisco Da Costa
No Blacks working on this stretch of Divisadero - Photo: Francisco Da Costa
The stimulus money that is talked about but seldom seen in the Black community has few ways to enter. One of the ways that it enters is through programs designed to control us, not projects that would allow us to empower ourselves. Food stamp programs, Section 8 housing programs, job training programs, outreach programs, welfare programs are all good programs for emergency needs. What about our chronic needs? Our community needs on-the-job training. We need projects out of which we can supply jobs and build wealth.

Building trades unions have gained control of all of the public construction; they determine who works and who trains. They have infected all public works projects with illegal project labor agreements. Any stimulus money that comes to our community in these projects excludes us.

No Blacks working on this Valencia Street project - Photo: Francisco Da Costa
No Blacks working on this Valencia Street project - Photo: Francisco Da Costa
Local governments buy off the leaders in the Black community by funding programs designed to employ the educated and the articulate. They fund numerous programs designed to reach out to minority contractors. They fund programs to help with bonding. They fund programs designed to shop Black contractors’ bids. They fund programs designed to monitor the color and nationality as well as the wages of contractors on public works projects. These funds do everything but put a profitable contract in the hands of a Black contractor, enabling him or her to hire Black workers.

The building trades unions have found a more effective way to discriminate. They prevent Black contractors who finally get a contract from making any money. Under the PLA (project labor agreement), if the small Black contractor does not sign a union agreement, he must still pay the union out of his contract. If he does sign an agreement, the union sends him the worst craftsmen at the hall. This makes it impossible to profit on a contract. The internal racism is overpowering. This is especially true of the electrical unions, Locals 509 and 6.

No Blacks working on this Valencia Street project – Photo: Francisco Da Costa
No Blacks working on this stretch of Valencia Street – Photo: Francisco Da Costa
Black contractors have decided they are not going to take this any more. In the San Francisco Bay Area, we have organized a more aggressive contractors association, Bay Area Black Builders. This association will include workers as well as contractors. Membership requires a recommendation.

We plan to aggressively pursue jobs for the Black community. We plan to oppose the pre-apprenticeship programs sponsored by the trade unions. We plan to institute an on-the-job training program for young Black and Brown people. We oppose project labor agreements. We plan to bring a class action suit against all such contracts made by public bodies. We plan to establish our own bonding company as we did once before.

Joseph Debro is president of the new organization, Bay Area Black Builders, Black construction workers and contractors fighting together for economic justice. He is also president of the Visitacion Valley Community Development Corp., co-founder of the National Association of Minority Contractors, a general engineering contractor and a bio-chemical engineer. He can be reached at Transbayd@aol.com. Willie Ratcliff, Bay View publisher and owner of Liberty Builders, was elected first vice president of Bay Area Black Builders. He can be reached at (415) 671-0789 or publisher@sfbayview.com.

5 thoughts on “Jobs now!

  1. Wallace

    We are deliberately being replaced and marginalized in the work force. Our men are forced into idleness which is a slow social death. The police then hunt us all day until they see some infraction and then you´re in court and on your way to jail! This is America´s final solution to the black problem!

    Reply
  2. ginger jones

    LET’s get out black folks jobs…why is UCSF mission Bay sitting there and not making any jobs avaiable to our community. how dare they! build in our neighborhoods and tell us we can not work. but yet, we have non-speaking folks working from dawn till dusk.

    Reply
  3. Danzel Cohen

    America to me is a joke, this country was founded by criminals who had an opportunity to be free in a new land, made up somthin called manifest destiny, “the destiny to conquer america.
    they killed off most the natives,tried to enslave them but they couldnt work to there standards and then forced the remaining natives to live on reservations,then dehumanized African men and women of the west ivory coast by making them slaves. slaves who couldnt read write or take part in any form of education, they beat Black men and raped Black women, hunted escaped men like animals, passed laws that Blacks were only considered 3/4 of a man so that laws couldnt not protect us, and made laws against Blacks to return them to slavery if they had been caught, sometime later the emancipation proclamation, of Abe Lincoln, that did not free all the slaves but slaves of the selected states. supposedly Blacks were to receive 40 acres and a mule, never did, no reparations, no apology, yet in pearl harbor the Asians received 25000 each to start a new life in america, theses Asians were forced from there homes into military guarded camps,and returned home only to find that there property was sold and america did apologize for that, but after the civil war a lot of Blacks help rebuild this country no thanks, just separation of the races. When the races were separated, Blacks did pretty well for themselves in their communities, at a time when were in a recession, then next thing you know Tulsa Oklahoma gets burn down buy jealous whites because blacks were more successful,not only men but women and children were hung and brutally murdered by the hundreds if not thousands. i never seen a hatred of a race so pure than that of a white to a black. not all whites are bad, just the old conservative who doesnt want change. this country treats blacks like the bottom of the totem poll, even immigrants look down on blacks, the only way blacks are ever gonna rise to the top, is if they do not buy into the perception of how america views blacks.

    blacks are strong, they are the number 1 hustlers,they are built to survive, hundreds of years of being conditioned in the fields passes on genetic traits that make them faster,and stronger, blacks are the American athlete. im not saying the other races cant do what blacks do im just saying that blacks can do it in a way that is almost natural and instinctive. mainstream america would be seriously lacking if it wasnt for the cultural contributions of blacks, im talking about the media, music and entertainment

    blacks of america need to unite, and become like the Jewish power house, they need to stop killing themselves, they need to stop selling themselves short, and they need to pull back the wool over their eyes and see america for what it really is, time is running out, humans should realize that were humans and not races, just different. the world would be boring if there were not differences.

    Dont hate, work together, be informed and not ignorant

    god says that which is last will be first, keep hope alive, we all need to be freed from our mental prisons and see that in life We all live on the same level of existence

    one love, Danzel

    Reply
  4. Sinclair

    “Most of the Black young men who drop out of school have no way to enter the labor force. Most of the young Black women who mate with them enter the public assistance community and never enter the workforce.”

    So stay in school. I live in Bayview. I see all the young men and girls acting the fool on the T. If they decide to drop out of school then unemployment and welfare is what they get for that decision. Why should they get a second chance when others worked hard to stay in school and make something of their lives?

    Reply
  5. Antonio Jackson

    “Stay in school. I live in the Bayview.”

    We can not forget the content of people before judging them. Don’t blame the child blame the parents or the parents parents or maybe blame the community or even slavery or white supremacy. Lets not be self-righteous, which is something we all can be guilty of at times.

    To be an African American child in any black neighbor in America is not just a possible death sentence of the body but of the mind as well. (The leading cause of death for young black youth is homicide.) I don’t live in the Bayview and would never bring my kids up in that area unless I had no other choice. These kids on the T are being programed to expect failure because they see it all around them. Instead of blaming them for not succeeding in an environment that is not designed for success lets find a more constructive solution other than stay in school. What is the use of graduating from a school that has failed you.

    Reply

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