This morning, on WVON, Mayor Rahm Emanuel responded to a question about protests over the lack of African-Americans on construction jobs in Chicago -- and managed to blame the problem on unions.
Last week, Ed Gardner, the 87-year-old founder of Soft Sheen Products, was driving past the corner of 95th and Western when he noticed there were no blacks on the crew repairing a sidewalk next to a strip mall. So Gardner called for a protest, which drew 1,000 people on Sunday. Host Matt McGill asked Emanuel about the controversy.
“Mr. Mayor, as you know, Chicago business icon Ed Gardner is protesting a construction site here on the South Side. There have been some attempts by him to reach your office and have a meeting. I want to know your thoughts on the lack of African-Americans on construction sites in the city.”
Here was the mayor’s response:
First of all, my staff has been in touch with Mr. Gardner. I think they’re meeting with him this morning, and they’ve met with him before. Mr. Gardner and I share the same goals, and the same objectives. We’ve talked about, where other cities are pulling back on public transportation, I just told you, we’ve got 400 permanent CTA bus driver jobs. We’ve got 200 to 300 jobs in rehabilitating our buses. We’re going to fix the Red Line, and over 30 percent of the work is going to be done by firms that are minority- and women-owned, and over 50 percent of that is African-American firms. On this particular project at 95-th. I talked to my staff, and as soon he said it was Hispanic and whites working on, I said, “Go check out what’s happened.” But remember, only a few years ago, the complaint was, “Nobody’s investing.” Now, we’re investing. The question is, “Now that we’re investing, who’s getting the work and who’s working on it?”…Now we’ve got to make sure that the building trades, which there’s a history at, which have not been opened to African-Americans and Hispanics and others, and minority children, make sure they have a training program, so the jobs that we’re investing in, and finally doing after years of not doing, are open to everybody in the city to apply for, and have the skill set so they, too can have that work.