Mar. 29, 2012

This letter to the editor was published in the Star Tribune today:

I’ve worked in heavy construction, have seen how it works, and have thoughts about the March 28 story “Higher minority-hiring goal riles construction industry.”

Often, contractors and trades hold a jealous grip on jobs. The positions are well-paid; there’s a take-care-of-our-own ethos, and there’s a zero-sum fear: If “they” gain something, then “we” lose something.

At the systemic level, little energy exists to understand the historic and current differential access to quality education, training, internships, apprenticeships and jobs. Our institutions don’t notice racial disparities because privilege is often invisible to those who hold it.

At the interpersonal level, since most folks have a moral conscience and need self-protective justification for supporting oppression, we have to convince ourselves and each other that “they” are in some way inherently inferior and undeserving (intelligence, work ethic, competence, morality), or we cleave to the argument that change is too difficult.

Those who attempt to address the imbalances are routinely marginalized as delusional, racist, socialist, or just uppity.

Often, minorities who get in find themselves demeaned, given the dirtiest tasks, laid off first and invalidated with the old standards: “Can’t you take a joke?” “I’m sure you’re overreacting.” “Do you want this job or not?”

I wore a hard hat, carried my lunch and worked in the weather, and I believe we can do better as a society and as individuals. And I’m white.


Mar. 28, 2012

This week, a majority of Minneapolis City Council members endorsed a Vikings stadium plan, which paves the way for the legislature to pass a bill to reuse the Metrodome site for a new stadium.

HIRE Minnesota members do not all agree on whether a new publicly funded stadium should be built. But we are united in our conviction that all large-scale development, particularly development which receives public investment, must advance racial equity. Therefore, HIRE Minnesota has been working to ensure that if a new Vikings stadium is built, advancing racial equity in employment must be a central part of the deal.

Weeks ago, we asked Mayor R.T. Rybak and the city council to commit to that vision. In response, eight city council members signed a letter supporting HIRE’s platform and calling for:

  • 30 percent of the permanent jobs for communities with the highest employment disparities,
  • increased hiring goals for people of color on the stadium construction, and
  • a long-term, sustainable funding stream for job training and placement programs

These eight signers represent a majority of the Minneapolis city council – and more council members than support the stadium itself!  HIRE will continue to work with this group and others to ensure that equity remains a focus in any stadium deal.

Thanks, council members, for supporting equity!

Mar. 22, 2012

This article from the St. Paul Pioneer Press outlines the state of Minnesota’s commitment to increasing hiring goals for people of color on state construction project. The new goals are 32 percent for Hennepin and Ramsey Counties and 22 percent for the rest of the region. The previous goal was 11 percent.

These increased goals demonstrate a commitment from the state of Minnesota to remedying our region’s unacceptable racial employment disparities. Thanks to all the HIRE Minnesota leaders who have helped raise awareness of the critical importance of racial employment equity in Minnesota!