Brookins supports Gardner, vows to hold hearings on lack of jobs for blacks
By Chinta Strausberg
Referring to Ed Gardner’s rally for jobs held Sunday at 95th and Western, City Council Black Caucus Chairman Ald. Howard Brookins (21st) Sunday said the Caucus is fully supportive of the goals of Gardner and his supporters in calling for blacks to be hired at construction sites across the city. “I’ve expressed this exact same concern to the administration about the lack of African Americans working on public works jobs. It is incumbent upon the mayor of the city of Chicago to impress upon his commissioners that this is a city that cherishes diversity and that the administration expects to see diversity which includes and means African Americans on these construction jobs that are funded by city of Chicago tax dollars,” said Brookins.
When asked what can the aldermen do to ensure blacks are included on these job sites, Brookins said, “It has to deal with enforcement and sensitivity. The way our ordinance is written in order to pass legal muster says that we need minorities. That is the way the law is written,” he said. Explaining, Brookins said if lawmakers had used the word African Americans the law would probably have been in jeopardy of being stricken down in court. “There is and should be a sensitivity towards these contractors who have been picked to work on these projects to know that when you are coming into these communities that are widely diverse that it should be natural and good business sense that the workforce reflect the city and the areas in which they are working,” Brookins said.
Asked if it is true that when some contractor’s claim they cannot find qualified blacks they seek waivers from the City Council, Brookins said, “We do need to tighten that part up,” he said referring to waivers being granted by the City Council when contractors claim they can’t find qualified African Americans. “We’ve seen contractors doing is building in the fines when they don’t hire African Americans. Maybe increasing the penalty for doing that, debarring the companies that don’t hire minority workers would send a message that we are serious about it.” Brookins said that message is best delivered by the mayor. He said it is up to the mayor to say, “these shenanigans will not be tolerated.” Told that my sources claim the city has not collected any of the fines, Brookins said he had not heard that. “We as a body can host a meeting to find out about this. I will lead such a charge,” Brookins said confirming he will hold hearings on this issue.
Agreeing was Ald. Roderick Sawyer (6th) said, “Marching is one thing. We have to actively protest, do some work stoppage, maybe go to jail, but we have to raise the attention that this has got to stop. We cannot continue to be disrespected in our communities by not working where we live. This is a good first step but we have to continue our focus to make sure we continue this all the way through. I’m willing to go to jail for the right reason,” Sawyer said.