BY KATRINNA MARTIN-BORDEAUX
Our city has great potential to be a national model on how to architect inclusive publicly funded economic development projects, like those funded by the Buffalo Billion, to increase equity for marginalized communities and people of color. Working with elected officials, community groups, community leaders, labor unions, and businesses to address economic inequities and social disparities, the Contract Compliance Review Committee is the citizen-driven vehicle that the minority community has been missing for too long.
Our goal is simple: to decrease the unemployment rate, and increase the construction trades participation rate in the Black, Latino and any marginalized community, thus decreasing income disparities.
By working in partnership with firms who have been chronically unable to achieve minority hiring and contracting objectives established in public contracts, we can identify barriers that impede access to jobs, training, goods, and services — and we can do together, cooperatively.
Adopting such a model, the Contract Compliance Reivew Committee will increase participation among the business community. As we form an economic policy plan that puts community benefits first, we can correct the structural inequalities and intergenerational poverty that has kept the Buffalo Niagara region decades behind the rest of the nation.
On May 9, 2016 following a morning demonstration calling attention to hiring disparities, members of the Contract Compliance Committee met with senior executives from LP Ciminelli, including Senior Vice President Kevin Schuler and Director of Compliance (MWBE/EEO) Stephanie Pennington. This meeting was very promising, despite the misconception and perception prior to this meeting.
The initial concern of the Committee is lackluster minority participation in opportunities related to construction jobs and apprenticeship programs in Western New York. Upon discussion, we began to express concerns and opportunities to move forward productively: strategic plans, apprenticeship programs, community partnerships, state legislation, county programing, among various other ideas, to increase opportunity for minority people in the construction trades.
Together we can address the barriers that prevent workforce participation, including discriminatory union practices, the disparate location of apprenticeship training programs, lack of transportation, math assessment testing, and a valid drivers license, among many others.
Our first meeting with LP Ciminelli was promising and gave us hope.
The firm has agreed to regularly attend Contract Compliance Committee meetings in the near future, in order to discuss and plan a resolution that is beneficial to the people, the region, and the construction industry itself. Out of these meetings, the Committee and LP Ciminelli will lobby — together — for the badly needed reforms that our community needs.
With thanks to Kevin Schuler and Stephanie Pennington for their support, participation and interest in collaboration and solutions, we are grateful and eager to get started.
Katrinna Martin-Bordeaux is the Chairperson and founder of Young Black Democrats of Western New York, and a is member of the Contract Compliance Review Committee.