The respected Eastside activist Charlie Fisher and County Legislator Betty Jean Grant — the black community’s most trusted and respected civic leader in more than a generation — are rallying the city. They are calling for a more equitable allocation of construction jobs at state-funded construction sites. The rally took place Thursday outside of Solar City, the flagship project of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Buffalo Billion initiative.
LP Ciminelli, the construction contractor that has donated heavily to Cuomo while enjoying lucrative contracts at Riverbend, Conventus, Children’s Hospital, the UB Medical School, the Richardson Complex, and a host of other state funded projects, has not met minority hiring or contacting goals. The city land sale was approved on the agreement that 25% of contracts would be awarded to minority owned firms and that 25% of jobs be given to minorities. That target was later reduced to 15% by Empire State Development.
The construction industry has hired minorities at very low rates, suggesting systematic discrimination in the hiring process which is typically controlled by a trade union. That process must be investigated and regulated to ensure that labor unions are affording equal access to applicants, and then allowing members an equal opportunity to work, activists argue.
Ciminelli is closely linked to Grassroots, Inc, a political club led by Maurice Garner. Mayor Byron Brown and Council President Darius Pridgen were absent at the rally, angering many activists. Both politicians are close to Ciminelli and Garner.