Next week, the city of Minneapolis will have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to provide more jobs and career options for people of color in Minneapolis now and for the next 30 years.
Minneapolis has the worst employment disparities by race of any major city, meaning that white people are three and a half times more likely to be employed than Black people. HIRE Minnesota, a community-based coalition, is fighting hard to change this situation. The new Vikings stadium legislation, which was signed into law by Governor Dayton last week, outlines clear and immediate opportunities to provide both short- and long-term employment for people of color. While coalition members within HIRE Minnesota have different opinions about whether public funds should be used to build a stadium, we all agree that if the Minneapolis City Council votes in favor of it next week, it should make the most of the opportunity to advance employment equity in Minneapolis.
The stadium will produce up to $1 billion of new investment in the downtown area, and hundreds of jobs over the next 30 years. HIRE Minnesota believes a fair share of the construction and permanent jobs need to be available to people of color in general and Blacks in particular, most of whom live in the shadow of downtown but don’t benefit from investments there.
Thanks to the leadership of Rep. Bobby Joe Champion and Sen. Linda Higgins, the signed stadium bill contains two key provisions that should ensure new job access for people of color. The key players, including the contractors and the
Vikings, will have to make good faith efforts to hire 32 percent people of color in the construction of the stadium. Over the life of the stadium, all parties will have to make special efforts to hire people of color for the many long-term jobs an NFL stadium creates.
Rep. Champion and Sen. Higgins outlined a detailed plan in the legislation to make these words more than just talk. If all the right steps are taken, hundreds of people of color will obtain jobs to build, manage and maintain different aspects of the project.
However one piece of the puzzle remains. It’s a big one, and it is in the hands of Mayor R.T. Rybak and the Minneapolis City Council. Eight members of the city council have endorsed HIRE Minnesota’s equity principles for the stadium, including a plan for the city to commit $1 million per year over the next 30 years to fund job training activities in hospitality, property management, sports and convention facility management and construction. This is one of the most important things the city could do to erase the disgrace of our racial employment disparities, which are an economic drain on the city and are also bringing us undesired national attention. It’s an issue our city leadership has an interest in paying close attention to.
In his recent state of the city address, Mayor Rybak called for investments in communities of color as a way to stimulate economic growth for the entire city. Fortunately, Councilmembers: Kevin Reich, Cam Gordon, Diane Hofstede, Robert Lilligren, Elizabeth Glidden, Meg Tuthill, John Quincy and Betsy Hodges had already heeded that call to action by pledging to include a job training fund for low-income people and people of color in the stadium plan. Not all of these councilmembers will vote for the plan, but each of them has said any proposal that they will entertain must include this key element.
These councilmembers should be commended for their leadership in taking steps to address one of Minneapolis’s most persistent and troubling issues. We call upon the rest of the city council and the mayor to join them in making it happen.