As the Central Corridor light-rail transit line construction continues, disputes continue over the Metropolitan Council’s specific hiring goals that insure women and minority representation in the workforce. While Met Council spokespersons insist that goals are being met, community leaders say that’s not the case.
The Central Corridor project’s goal is to make sure 18 percent of construction work-hours go to people of color and that six percent go to women.
In monthly public meetings, the main contractors — Walsh Construction, which is responsible for building the eastern seven miles of the light-rail, and Ames-McCrossan, which is responsible for the western three miles — present reports on their progress of meeting the minority hiring goals to the community and the Met Council, which oversees the project.
The figures presented by the contractors vary each month — sometimes exceeding the required goal, and at other times falling below the goal.
In its September Disadvantaged Business Enterprise News, the Met Council congratulated contractors for meeting the project’s participation goals for minorities and women.
Although Walsh and McCrossan didn’t meet the stated participation goals early on, the report said, “as construction moved into full swing, both [contractors] were fully staffed and achieving the workforce participation goals.”
According to the report, Walsh Construction reached 18.8 percent minority participation and 9.9 percent women participation, as of July. McCrossan reached 18.1 percent for minorities and 8 percent for women participation, as of July—figures that are above the 18 percent for minorities and 6 percent for women participation goals.
Community advocates, however, said these figures from the Met Council don’t match those the contractors provided to the community in an August Central Corridor Disadvantaged Business Enterprise/Affirmative Action meeting.
“Our concern is that the Met Council is congratulating themselves and the prime contractors on the Central Corridor for meeting minority hiring goals when they have not,” Tracy Babler, communications director for the Alliance for Metropolitan Stability said in a statement. “All of the official data that has been presented to the community shows that the goals are not currently being met.”
HIRE Minnesota released a report with figures contradicting those of the Met Council.
According to the HIRE Minnesota report, Walsh, with no subcontractors, reached 15 percent in hiring minorities, and with subcontractors, the company’s portion of the project hit 17.4 percent. McCrossan, with no subcontractors, hit 11.6 percent in hiring minorities, and with subcontractors, the company’s minority hiring goal reached 16 percent, as of July — figures that are below the goal for hiring people of color.
The confusion stems from the contractors being allowed to release another set of numbers before they have been certified for accuracy, said Laura Baenen, Met Council Central Corridor project spokesperson.
“The Met Council stands by the certified workforce numbers for its two prime contractors that were reported in the summer 2011 Disadvantaged Business Enterprise News,” Baenen said.
Since then, the numbers have changed.
“The latest certified workforce figures show Walsh Construction exceeding the goals at 18.2 and 9.3 percent,” Baenen said. “But Ames-McCrossan Joint Venture not achieving the minority goal — coming in at 16 percent — but exceeding the female goal at 7.1 percent.”
Both major contractors have been below goal at each of the last three monthly public meetings, said Maura Brown, Associate Director of the Alliance for Metropolitan Stability.
Twin Cities racial employment disparities
With minorities and new immigrant population increasing in the Twin Cities areas, the disparate racial unemployment rate between blacks and whites is alarming.
While the Twin Cities has one of the highest overall rates of working adults, it also has one of the largest unemployment disparities between whites and blacks, according to the One Minneapolis Community Indicators Report.
“In Minneapolis, the employment gap between whites and U.S.-born blacks is 25 percent,” the report said. The report also indicates that there is a 27 percent employment gap between whites and American Indians.
A recently-released Ramsey County Blue Ribbon Commission study shows the racial, ethnic and cultural populations in the Twin Cities have tripled in the past 20 years, making the neighborhoods along the Central Corridor light-rail the most populated minority communities in Minnesota.
Local coalition organizations have banded together to reduce racial disparities in employment, including Central Corridor construction.
“Part of [the coalition’s] mission is to mobilize our communities to keep equitable hiring on CCLRT construction at the forefront of the Met Council and contractors’ agendas,” Ralph Wyman, director of the Minnesota Unitarian Universalist Social Justice Alliance, said. “We will continue to work to monitor the progress of the contractors in hiring people of color on this project.”
The nearly $940 million Central Corridor construction project, which will be completed in 2014, employs 1,801 workers. Community leaders said they’re pushing to add more workers from minority groups to this number.
“It is completely unacceptable that the contractors are not meeting their goals,” HIRE Minnesota Coalition Organizer Avi Viswanathan said. “We are going to continue to push the contractors, the Met Council, and the Department of Human Rights to ensure that the contractors meet their goals.”
Coverage of issues and events that affect Central Corridor neighborhoods and communities is funded in part by a grant from Central Corridor Collaborative.