ABC MA met with Mayor of Boston Kim Janey last week and discussed how the lack of opportunity for open shop construction in Boston exacerbates the city’s housing costs and closes off employment opportunities for Boston residents, including minorities.
ABC discussed recent data from a City of Boston disparity study that was presented by the chairman of Boston Employment Commission (BEC) at a recent oversight hearing of the Boston City Council. The data shows that between 2014 and 2019 the City of Boston spent $986 million on construction that was essentially all union, and of that only 11.8 million, or 1.2 percent, went to businesses owned by minorities. In contrast, just three open shop projects during the same time (Olmsted Green, Granite Lena and Whittier II) spent $25.6 million minority contractors and related businesses.
“In other words, one or two non-union projects have directed the same amount of money to black and brown owned companies as all of Boston’s union construction over a five-year stretch,” said BEC Chair Travis Watson at the oversight hearing.
Mayor Janey said it was a priority for her to see that all people in the City of Boston have opportunity. She said she would like to see construction as a whole do a better job with minority participation. ABC agreed, and noted that with the demographics showing that currently 83.5 percent of the Massachusetts construction workforce is not unionized, it is in the city’s intertest to create additional pipelines into the open shop sector.
ABC MA First Vice Chairman John Cruz (Cruz Construction Co.), whose firm is a third-generation minority general contractor and developer based in Boston, explained to Mayor Janey that there are both written barriers, such as union-only PLAs, and unwritten barriers such as the long-time custom and practice of favoring unions in Boston. He said both are an additional means of discrimination against minorities. He also spoke about how opening up competition to more open shops could help reduce housing costs in Boston.
ABC MA also discussed Madison Park High School, which is presently underutilized. “There is tremendous potential to train local residents here in the city. Firms like mine now have to go outside of Boston,” said Cruz.
Two-term former ABC MA Chairman Jim Rudolph (Rudolph Friedmann LLP), who organized the meeting, discussed ABC’s merit shop philosophy, and noted that ABC is not anti-union as sometimes misrepresented. Noting his law practice serves contractors and his family was in the electrical contracting business, Rudolph said “there are many members in ABC like myself who have a long history with ABC and who are involved because they care about the industry,” he said. Bobby Rudolph, Jim’s son and a partner at Rudolph Friedmann, echoed that sentiment.
“Mayor Janey said she appreciated our perspectives and information. She seemed genuinely interested, and we had a good discussion,” said ABC MA President Greg Beeman.
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