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Tuesday
Nov 25th

Level playing field with construction jobs

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Level playing field with construction jobs

In the last few years, the United States has spent millions of dollars improving the country's bridges and highway systems. All of this building and repair work has led to an increase in jobs in the construction field, giving thousands of Americans the opportunity to train and work in what can be a well-paying line of work. African-American and women, however, are not often among those being selected for these positions. In the last few years, the United States has spent millions of dollars improving the country's bridges and highway systems. All of this building and repair work has led to an increase in jobs in the construction field, giving thousands of Americans the opportunity to train and work in what can be a well-paying line of work. African-American and women, however, are not often among those being selected for these positions. A recent study reveals that Hispanics are the employee of choice in the construction industry and, in some cities, make up the majority of the construction workforce. Once again, African-Americans are being short-changed when it comes to economic opportunities and, once again, we must collectively raise our voices to put an end to this discrimination.

Media hype is often used to pit African-Americans against the Latino community. We are told that "they" are stealing our jobs, taking money from our pockets. We cannot fall victim to those tactics. Many of the Hispanics being hired for construction jobs are in this country illegally and ineligible to join a union. As such, employers can pay them a lower wage, saving themselves money in the long run. Hispanics in construction, because of communication and other barriers, experience higher accident rates on the job. If the injury is serious enough, they are dismissed with no safety net to catch them. In the construction industry, as in many other sectors, employers take advantage of undocumented workers, workers who came to America to find a better life for themselves and their families, and exploit them for financial game. Laws need to be put into place to protect the rights of immigrant workers and to ensure that Black and female employees have a shot at these jobs.

The Transportation Equity Network (TEN), a coalition of more than 300 organizations, is calling for a federal transportation law that would generate $1.43 billion to go towards job training, pre-apprenticeship programs and support services to help African-Americans, women and Latinos establish themselves in federal transportation construction jobs. Such an investment would have a major impact on the racial, ethnic and gender makeup of the construction workforce. And it would give more African-Americans an opportunity to learn skills that could put them in a position to truly provide for their families. More than funding is needed, however.

Hiring guidelines that guarantee a percentage of the jobs to Blacks and women must be set. Additionally, employers who exploit undocumented workers must be fined for such abuse. Huge sums of federal dollars – taxpayer money – go into these transportation construction projects. As such, the U.S. government has a duty to ensure that the workforce adequately represents America and not the interests of large corporations.
 

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