Jan. 28, 2015

HIRE Minnesota is going back to its roots by turning its focus to a green jobs project. The Minnesota Airports Commission (MAC) is undertaking a $25 million solar panel development project that is projected to create 250 jobs.The project is subject to the state’s 32 percent hiring goal for people of color, which could mean 80 jobs and an estimated $2.7 million in wages for workers of color. HIRE Minnesota and Summit Academy OIC have testified at MAC meetings, and we were joined by our long-time supporter Will Steger in our call for workforce equity. The MAC is now putting together a workforce report and has committed to discussing equity issues at future public meetings.

 

Jan. 13, 2015

Advocacy makes a difference. Over the last five years, HIRE Minnesota has been working with the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) to ensure more people of color are hired on Minnesota’s road, bridge and transitway projects. Each month, HIRE Minnesota facilitates a group of stakeholders, including prime contractors, women and minority-owned businesses, labor unions, training institutions, government agencies and community advocates who review MnDOT contractors’ workforce reports on hiring people of color.

When we first started work with MnDOT, the agency only shared a list of the top 10 projects with this table of stakeholders. At our urging, the agency later expanded to 15 projects. Now, through our hard work and advocacy for improved systems, we are able to access data for the state’s 70 largest projects. This new list immediately paid dividends. With more comprehensive data, we are able to analyze multiple projects by individual contractors to see how that particular business is doing across the board, not just on one isolated project.

We noticed that one contractor was falling significantly behind the goals: C.S. McCrossan. McCrossan had four active projects and was nowhere near the goal of hiring 32 percent people of color on any of them. In addition, the contactor was only meeting the goal of 6 percent for women on one project. When we approached McCrossan to discuss our concerns,
we did not receive a satisfactory response.

So we decided to take action. We organized a protest on a McCrossan worksite and started spreading word of this protest in the community. Apparently, the news got to MnDOT and McCrossan as well, because they immediately responded. MnDOT, in particular, wanted to find another way to resolve the issue. They proposed hosting a meeting to allow HIRE Minnesota to share our concerns with McCrossan. We decided we would give them the chance to meet.

Tom McCrossan, president of C.S. McCrossan, came to the meeting ready to work. He said he had not realized how bad his company’s hiring performance was, but that now he was going to step up and lead from within. Together, we decided that HIRE Minnesota would train McCrossan to use a tool that we had developed in the past to create workforce projections. By the end of the year McCrossan will release information showing where the gaps in their workforce will be in 2015. McCrossan will then use that data to work with training organizations to fill their needs and begin to meet goals. McCrossan will ensure its subcontractors are meeting goals as well. The company will also start to work with educational institutions to create a stronger pipeline for people of color to enter the industry. Finally, McCrossan will hire a staff person whose job is to ensure all of these steps are implemented.

Years of advocacy with MnDOT and its contractors have created improved systems that allow us to achieve better results for people of color. In particular, organizing people who are affected by the issues gets people’s attention. We are proud that we always come prepared with solutions, and we are looking forward to working with McCrossan as it implements its commitments to hiring a more diverse workforce.