From New York Daily News:
The state NAACP is ripping the diversity of the city’s construction unions, claiming the Building and Construction Trades Council is deceiving New Yorkers about the number of minorities in its ranks.
“You should not mislead New Yorkers by claiming that union construction is more racially integrated than it actually is. Such claims do a great disservice to real civil rights efforts across our city and state,” NAACP New York State Conference president Hazel Dukes wrote in a letter to Building Trades president Gary LaBarbera Wednesday.
In the midst of a fight over whether to require union-level wages at many affordable housing projects, the Building Trades Council took out a full page ad in the Daily News earlier this month promoting its diversity efforts.
But the NAACP said those numbers pale in comparison to the 100,000 workers represented by the Council — and called on the group to release all data on the number of minority workers employed in each of the union building trades.
“If the building trades are really ‘leading the way in expanding diversity,’ you should provide the actual data to prove it,” Dukes wrote.
“If Ms. Dukes had approached us directly with her concerns before running to the press, we would have explained to her that through our apprenticeship programs, the New York City Building and Construction trades have welcomed thousands of skilled African-American and Latino workers into our ranks,” LaBarbera, who said he has not yet received the letter, shot back.
“Years ago we recognized that the construction industry, like many others, had long suffered from a diversity problem. But instead of an honest discussion about our efforts to expand diversity, Ms. Dukes opted to diminish and demean the apprentices who one day will lead our industry.”
The spat comes amid a debate over whether developers who get a state tax break known as 421-a should have to pay prevailing wage.
The unions say it’s essential to make sure the projects are providing good jobs.
But affordable housing developers have resisted the mandate, saying it will drive up the cost of affordable housing too high, and have also argued union jobs are less likely to go to minority workers.
A deal reached to extend 421-a requires the Building Trades Council and the Real Estate Board of New York to forge a compromise by early next year — and the tax break could be suspended if they fail.
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