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Davis Bacon Helper Rules

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JULY 21, 1999

Mr. Chairman, Mr. Vice-Chairman, distinguished members of the subcommittee, thank you for allowing the National Black Chamber of Commerce to provide input on the very important topic of Helper Rules in regards to the Davis Bacon Act.

The National Black Chamber of Commerce, Inc. is the largest Black trade association in the world. It has 181 affiliated chapters located in 35 states and represents over 64,000 Black owned firms. We are currently collaborating with Black owned businesses in Ghana, Brazil and the Bahamas in the quest of business interaction and chapter development.

We were incorporated, here in Washington, DC, in the spring of 1993. In early 1994, we formed a position on the Davis Bacon Act. We advocate the repeal of Davis Bacon. It is discriminatory by nature and works to the detriment of small businesses, including Black owned businesses and Black families.

The Davis Bacon Act has racist roots. It was enacted to prevent Black owned firms from the South to migrate to New York City and compete on construction contracts. These firms, employing descendants of skilled slave craftsmen, were soon blocked from the huge New York market and were forced to return to the Jim Crow environment of Alabama, Georgia, etc.

The exclusivity effect of Davis Bacon requirements encourages the construction trades to continue its activity of discrimination against African American labor. Locally, regionally and nationally construction trades under-represent the African American population. Go to any city or look at any major project and you will find a great disparity against African American labor.

Let us look at a few examples. The City of Detroit has embarked on a major construction expansion including a new football stadium and a new major league baseball park Ė across the street from each other. Even though the City of Detroit has a population that is 77% Black, these two projects which have been declared "union only" will, at best, average no more than 15% African American participation in the workforce. This is a disaster!

What is worse is that this paltry performance is going to exhaust the entire Detroit marketplace of Black union craftsmen. The other "union only" or Davis Bacon projects concurrently taking place will be virtually void of Black employment in a city that is 77% Black.

Why is there high crime and violence in Detroit? Why is there terribly high poverty, unemployment and public housing?

Letís start here in our search for the answer. According to the Department of Laborís Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP), the City of Gary should have 24% of its construction workforce consisting of ethnic minorities. The fact is that Gary, despite being over 85% Black can produce no more than 3% minority participation on any Davis Bacon project. Gary is the "Steel City". A "Steel City" with only two Black ironworkers with journeymen status.

Travel to Indianapolis where still, as of two days ago, they have segregated union halls. Go to the "black union hall" for cement workers on 1502 Martin Luther King Ave. If you want white workers visit the "white union hall" on North Sherman Ave. The same is for carpenters. Go to the hall on east 38th street for Black workers and visit the hall on south Madison for white workers.

This is 1999 and Jim Crow is alive and well in the construction trades. The bitterness and disgust of capable and potential Black workers and business owners is starting to boil. On July 15, last week, in St. Louis, a group of Black contractors and workers, effectively shut down Interstate 70 in protest of the Federal Highway Administrationís discriminatory practices via Davis Bacon. Such civil disobedience actions are going to populate this nation. St. Louis is just the beginning and other urban centers, even Washington, DC, are going to explode.

The time to integrate the construction trades is now! Where is the traditional Black leadership on the important issue? Missing, void, AWOL (absent without leave) and totally confused.

There is a big false perception that construction trades emulate the commitment of Labor greats such as Walter Reuther and A. Philip Randolph. Nothing can be further from the truth and Black leaders, especially elected officials, must "wake up" and realize that they for the most part are, in fact, supporting Davis Bacon and promoting discrimination against their constituents.

It is as mind boggling as when Labor persuaded the NAACP to not support affirmative action. The NAACP would not issue a supporting position for affirmative action from 1969 (the beginning) through 1990. Such behavior justifies the last place economic position of Black America.

The latest example is when the Federal Highway Administration cancelled Executive Order 11246 (written by President John F. Kennedy) this past February. This regulation that requires federal contractors to document and include minority participation in the workforce was the only instrument that ensured some semblance of inclusion in the federal workplace. Now, minority participation, as little as it was, will be virtually void in Davis Bacon highway projects.

This was done with the passive participation of the Congressional Black Caucus. I cannot find the sanity in this. It was simply done at the behest of Labor, no questions asked. We have had generations of so called apprenticeship programs by the construction trades and, still, no adequate representation of Blacks in the journeymen roles.

What has happened to those apprentices? We can train them all we want but until the doors of discrimination are forced open we will continue to have the same disparities in the crafts. By allowing helpers in federally funded workplaces we will improve the participation of minorities. This participation will certainly help promote an environment that would look closer to America. It will also assist small businesses and, in fact, Black owned businesses to compete and win a greater share of federal contracts.

This would be good for all of America. If all Americans pay taxes and fund these federal jobs, a good diverse representation of these taxpayers should be required on the work site. Also, costs would certainly be reduced. Let us have a more efficient procurement program on federal construction projects and a more diverse workforce, void of discrimination.

Finally, is there documentation on the actual contrasts between prevailing wages and union scale? Are there studies done on the demographical make up of construction trade unions by ethnicity and in contrast with local markets? What is the relationship to ethnic disparity within unions and minority unemployment?

While we include helpers in the workplace, let us also find the answers to these important questions. Thank you very much.

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Discuss This Article!

African American Chambers are Right! 6/13/2004 11:19:59 PM
Posted by: Dr. Tim Lucas ADams Th.D. (#1 of 1),,,,

From: Dr. Tim Lucas Adams, Th. D.
Orlando, Florida
(407) 816-3636

Does the Adoption of a Labor Union Favored Policy in the City of Orlando Help or Hurt the Employment Rate of African American Men and Women in 2004?

That Question has been Raised and Rightfully So, By our Two Elected Officials in the city of Orlando.

West - Central Orlando Chamber of Commerce, Inc.
Weighs in on the Fray in support of the Two Commissioners and any other Commissioner who
are concerned about their Constituents.

The Mayor Won Reelection with Both Labor and African American Support.

There are Districts in Orlando's Government that are more than Twenty Per Cent African American such as the ROSEMONT Area, and the Azalea Park Area has a large Hispanic Population that is also underrepresented in the ranks of the Local Labor Unions.

During the 1968, 1970, 1972, 1976, 1978, 1980, 1984 and other years the Central Labor Council Supported my Candidacies for Public Office because I am a Supporter of Labor Unions, and served as a member of the Communications workers of America.

That is my Choice to support Labor issues; and it is my Gift from God almighty that I am a Very Well Blessed and Talented African American, United States Veteran and Highly Trained and Well-Educated Worker as well.

There are Thousands of SKILLED Well-Educated and Capable African American Men and Women Who could and Want to participate in the Labor Represented Jobs of Central Florida.

We are NOT Allowed to participate Fully in the Labor Union Jobs in Central Florida that employ Mainly Men in the Highest Paying jobs.

We are also denied the Training and Apprenticeship opportunities that European Americans take for granted in Central Florida.

What can be done to improve these situations?

We can all Work to accomplish the Elimination of RACISM that exists in the Union Halls and the Organization of

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