Black and White Labor vs. Construction Discrimination

Jan 28 '19 | By Ray "Black labor must not only speak for the Black worker but Black labor must be the voice speaking on behalf of all workers." I'd like to suggest one area in which this excellent principle could be put into actual practice, namely, in the construction trades where, I am convinced, black and white cooperation could lead to progressive reform for all. I realize that this idea may seem strange because, as we all know, blacks have suffered egregious discrimination, above all in construction and still do. Nevertheless, blacks have managed to win a secure foothold in many construction trades and should be able to count upon moral and material support from the many blacks who have already gained important points of power in the wider labor movement, in both the AFL-CIO and Change to Win.

I refer to those blacks who have already won entry into construction unions as full book members. But becoming a member of a union in construction does not, definitely not, guarantee fair treatment in access to work. Job discrimination is widespread in construction. Unlike manufacturing, for example, where a union contract provides a measure of job security through seniority rights, construction offers no seniority protection because jobs are temporary. Even while building a road, digging a trench, or putting up a house, a construction worker wonders where the next job will comes from when this one is over. At that point, he (sometimes she) must apply for work once again, to a contractor or at the hiring hall. At that point, almost all construction workers are vulnerable. At that point, black construction workers, especially black women, face the danger of discrimination most acutely; but the reality is that all construction workers face a similar danger, whites less than blacks, but they face it nevertheless. This is one of those big facts about construction that never reaches outsiders but is common coin to insiders.



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