black workers center
Photo via Los Angeles Black Worker Center website

Activists gathered at the construction site of a downtown apartment project Wednesday to call for greater job opportunities for black workers, especially through more and better-enforced labor agreements aimed at increasing diversity in hiring.

Members of the Los Angeles Black Worker Center formed a “prayer circle” at the Hanover Company’s 1000 Grand Avenue construction site to call attention to the lack of black workers on the project.

Hanover officials did not immediately respond to requests for reaction to the group’s assertions.

Four percent of workers on the project are black, even though the Hanover Co. has received subsidies from the city, according to the group.

By comparison, Metro’s Crenshaw Line light rail project, which is under a project labor agreement that encourages diverse hiring, currently employs 24 percent black workers, Black Worker Center officials said.

Center officials said their findings are from the latest of a series of quarterly reports the group plans to release as a way of helping the city and public officials enforce pro-diversity hiring policies.

Lola Smallwood-Cuevas, the center’s founder, said the reports and other efforts to monitor hiring practices represent community efforts that arose out of an absence of stronger enforcement.

“We shouldn’t be monitoring this — it should be the city,” she said.

She said the Los Angeles Black Worker Center looked at hiring data on three Metro projects, including the Crenshaw Line extension to LAX, and deployed volunteers with construction experience to chronicle the demographic makeup of workers at the 1000 Grand Avenue project site.

Diversity in hiring at the Crenshaw Line project is especially important because it is being built in areas where communities are between 60 to 80 percent black, Smallwood-Cuevas said.

The group said it considers the Crenshaw Line job site diverse if its has 25 percent black workers, while the threshold for other job sites across city is about 10 percent.

The Black Worker Center report cites what it called stubbornly dismal job prospects for blacks nationally, with twice as many blacks out of jobs as whites, which is no better than it was in 1963.

In Los Angeles, the unemployment rate for blacks is 18 percent, while one third of blacks earn less than $12 per hour, according to the report.

The group’s members and supporters later discussed the report outside City Hall and delivered a petition to City Council members and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti’s office asking city leaders to set up an office that enforces policies aimed at increasing diversity in hiring.

Loretta Stevens, co-director of the Los Angeles Black Worker Center, said the group is “calling on the city to live up to the banner of the most diverse city in the nation, and the mayor to put into practice his vision of an equity agenda in Los Angeles by establishing an Office of Labor Standards and Enforcement … to monitor projects and vigorously enforce anti-discrimination laws. ”

She added that “all employers need to recognize the black job crisis and do something.”

“It’s not rocket science. Stop excluding,” she said. “Up your numbers of black workers and do the right thing. Look at your workforce. Who’s missing? Is everybody at the table? Is it representative of our diverse city? If it’s not, do something about it.”

—Staff and wire reports

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