Why are no Blacks working?


Get involved in the fight for economic justice at Bay Area Black Builders’ meeting Saturday, Jan. 16, 12 noon, 1099 Sunnydale, San Francisco

by Joseph Debro, Bay Area Black Builders

Craft labor unions since 1865 have been ambivalent about their racial policies. They were inclusive for a time. But in the 1900s through 1970 craft unions became virulently anti-Black.

Because of public pressure and court actions, craft unions have taken a new approach to racial discrimination. Their discrimination has become subtler. A small number of Blacks are treated fairly in some unions; most, however, are treated badly.

Those Black union members are the last dispatched out of the hall. They are the first laid off. The worst workers in the hall are sent to Black and other small contractors.

These craft unions have forced the political establishment to sign what is called project labor agreements (PLA). These are but another organizing tool designed to break small contractors.

Craft unions have formed a coalition with large white contractors. This cabal controls training and work in the construction industry. When there was an abundance of work in the San Francisco Bay Area, they imported labor from other states.

Their option was to train Black and other people of color in the trades. Their argument against it was that such training would produce too many trained workers. It was in craft unions’ best interest to import workers who would go home after the boom. If resident new workers were trained, these workers would need work in lean times.

Now that most of the construction work is public work, the craft unions exercise another type of control. Only kin and friend can be trained and are allowed to work. Small contractors must not be allowed to perform successful contracts. Black unemployed must be kept out of the work force. So bonds are required, as well as public works experience in order to qualify to bid.

Non-public works contracts are controlled by large white nonprofits, who use small minority nonprofits as fronts. Both public and private agencies use the number of poor Black and other minorities to induce the federal government to send money to help the poor. When the money comes to help the poor, it is diverted into the pockets of those who are positioned to exploit this situation. Public agencies help their cronies and block Black and other poor people from the intended benefits.

Large white nonprofits are usually controlled by outside forces. A non-board member controls Bridge Housing, for example. This person makes his money by selling Bridge land at inflated prices. Bridge uses public money to buy the land, hire white professionals and white contractors. The White contractors contract with white subs, who hire white craft workers. Bridge executives, most of whom are white, are paid more than bank executives. Seldom do these large nonprofits have diverse memberships who care about the Black and poor people of our community.

All successful nonprofits make money. They distribute it to themselves in the form of large salaries and benefits. They spend the money allocated to help the poor with their kin and friends. They build great housing projects. They win awards. They then turn to the community of the poor to service the debt incurred, making them rich.

Mel Simmons and those who support his efforts have decided not to take this anymore. The decision has been made to take it to the streets. The people of the San Francisco Bay Area must be informed.

Bay Area Black Builders will meet at 1099 Sunnydale on Saturday, Jan. 16, at 12 noon to discuss organizing for a job action. Everyone who is or wants to be involved in the construction industry is invited to attend.

Joseph Debro is president of Bay Area Black Builders. 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 transbay@netzero.com.


  1. I am a woman construction manager & have worked in the construction industry for over 30 years.

    I can count on 1 hand the number of black union craftsmen in the field and even fewer (I don’t remember ANY)in a management capacity. Racism has/is rampant on any jobsite I have ever worked on.

    Due to the non-existence of black workers & the growing # of hispanic workers their hatred is/has been redirected- until……

    I have called the union many times & they have never dispatched a black craftsmen.

    The unions have control over the apprentiship programs – & who you know – gets you training.

    Having no experience you don’t get hired & you don’t get experience unless someone hires you.

    By controlling the traing programs they maintain status quo.
    The unions are cuthroat in their current efforts to bypass local hiring in the redevelopment of Bayview Hunter’s Point.

    White contractor’s claim they are using their own employees even if eelocated from out of state.

    I have found that hiring small/minority contractors is difficult. Public Agencies require contractors sign the PAL Agreement. There are many contractual requirements that prevent small/minority contractiveors from even bidding.

    Lennar is proceeding with remediation efforts that give them maximum short term results & no long term results.
    They have no regard for the health of the construction workers in the short term or the health hazard to residents in the long term.

    The Redevelopment Agency & Lennar have twisted the EPA report & claim the level of toxins do not pose a health
    hazard to anyone.

    Remediation will remove toxins from the top 2-3 ft. Who is going to remove it? Testing will only be done at those depths. Short term results.

    A contract has been let for groundwater testing. However the scope of work is for “limited testing” “Limited” is the operative word.

    It will not be a surprise if Lennar hires black neighborhood residents for this remediation & claims that they are community concious.

    My husband is a journeymen carpenter & I am strongly opposed to him working in this toxic cespool.

  2. I know the reason why no blacks working…the answer is simple these whites and other nationalities that have these business feel that we dont need jobs like that and are not good enough to work on jobsite like that. But I say to all Black people in san Francisco is to unite and stop letting other people come into your house/neighborhood and kick you off the land..because thats what they are doing..black dollars need to hire workers…black companies that have construction openings need to hire blacks from the neighborhood first and hire other people no matter what you are last.Thats the problem….BLACKS need to speak up and out to stop this..


  4. You have to have PEOPLE that have experience and qualifications , would you pay someone to do a
    job for you with no experience, just for race ? Dont blame the white man , it's all here , go get it !
    Every one that comes to this country has , what's stoping YOU

  5. I am a black Architect in Los Angeles, and have worked on some LAUSD school projects, during my time on the projects I can't remember more than a handful of Black craftsmen working on these projects. As I travel through the city I always look at construction sites, and have come to the conclusion that Blacks are no longer involved in the construction industry. I know there must be some Blacks still in the industry, but very few.
    I believe it's the white contractors who profit by the misuse of immigrant workers from south of the boarder that are the reason the situation is like it is. I would like to know if there are any organizations in Los Angeles engaged the work of your organization. We need to come together and do something about this injustice. I would gladly be willing to become involved. Please contact me if you have any information.

  6. Yes it is and the entire country know this as the Democrats and Republicans looks the other way. After all their kin and friends are wotking

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