Demands grow for African-American construction workers

September 30, 2012 (CHICAGO)

This demonstration like others last week was organized by retired businessman Ed Gardner.

Most said they would rather be working than protesting, but that's not an option.

With unemployment rates soaring in the Black community, they believe their only hope of getting work is by forcing construction companies to take notice and hire African American workers, especially for projects in the communities where they live.

"We can't work in your neighborhood, we can't even work in our own neighborhood, so where we supposed to work at? So if we don't get together and do this, we don't work," said Gregory Leving.

"African Americans spend over an abundance of money shopping in Evergreen Plaza and to set up a situation where they're not hired to work in a community where they shop is deplorable," said National Action Network's Maureen Forte.

They marched in front of a retail construction site in Evergreen Park to be anchored by Menards and Meijer stores, where they say the private contractor is using virtually no African American workers.

The group of protestors was made up primarily of unemployed African American men and women.

Extra police are on hand to make sure it remains peaceful. The goal of many of the protestors is to force the company to shut down work on the site until they agree to hire more African Americans.

"We going to bring construction to a halt here in Chicago if in fact there is no parity in jobs and contracts on construction sites," said Cong. Bobby Rush.

The group is led by Chicago businessman Gardner, a multimillionaire former owner of the Soft Sheen Hair Product Company. Gardner is now committed to helping improve the community by helping African Americans find work. They are united in their message.

"Our young men and women need jobs," said protestor Pat Kline.

Protestors were out at different sites every day last week. They have no plans to be out Monday, but they say they do plan to continue these protests.

They are committed to forcing companies to putting more African Americans to work.

For the record, Mayor Rahm Emanuel told us earlier this week he will fire any subcontractors who fail to live up to the city's minority hiring rules.

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