Chicago leaders demand hiring of black-owned contractors to help businesses rebuild

CHICAGO (WLS) -- As local businesses work to repair and rebuild following recent looting and damage, there's a push for companies to hire black-owned contractors.

General contractor Rea Johnson is hoping Walgreens will hire her company Crea Construction to rebuild.

"We've been in business the last 12 years and our niche is retail remodeling," Johnson said.

During her years in business, Johnson said getting contracts as a black-owned company has been a huge uphill battle.

"It has been challenging to say the least. I can tell you the horror stories I've gone through," Johnson said.

On Wednesday, Johnson joined a group of business owners, pastors and politicians to demand that companies turn to black-owned contractors and tradesmen, not only to rebuild after recent destruction but also in the long term in black and white communities.

"This is about every corporation from here in Englewood, all the way downtown," said Ald. David Moore, of the 17th Ward.

Democratic State Sen. Jacqueline Collins called it "an end to sharecropping."

"We are not going to allow the black community to be pimped and be fronts for other organizations," Collins said.

The call is not only for 100% black contracts, but jobs as well.

"There are plenty of qualified black tradesmen out here. They just have not been afforded the opportunities to get into labor unions," said John Worthy, president of Skilled Tradesmen Local 46.

Worthy hopes the Black Lives Matter movement will result in long-term economic stability.

"Our overall goal is to create self-sustaining black communities across the U.S.," Worthy said. "We are starting here by offering apprenticeship and membership opportunities to residents of this ward."

But business owners and tradesmen said contracts and jobs are not enough to achieve racial equality, more African Americans must sit on corporate boards as well.
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