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Gardner and Mayor Emanuel meet on jobs at city sites

Thu, Nov 1, 2012

A meeting between Mayor Rahm Emanuel and business icon Ed Gardner Tuesday, October 9 averted a mass protest on City Hall after Gardner emerged from the mayor’s office “somewhat optimistic” that African Americans will be included on construction sites throughout Chicago.

Gardner, founder of Soft Sheen Hair Products, had said the previous Saturday that if he had not heard from the mayor he would march on City Hall with 10,000 people. He told reporters his position is simple: all he wants is jobs for blacks on city construction sites, especially in the African American community. He wants half the jobs on these sites to be held by blacks.

Mayor Emanuel said he would be meeting with CTA Chairman Terry Peterson and members from the Coalition of African American Leaders (C.O.A.L.), which is headed by Clarence Wood.

At a press conference outside the mayor’s City Hall Office, Gardner said the mayor “… seems to show some sign of being concerned about making a change. That is all I’m concerned about: that the things are not like they have been for the past many years in the city of Chicago.”

The previous Saturday he spoke at a standing-room-only meeting with C.O.A.L. officials at BJ’s Market & Bakery Restaurant at 87th and Stony Island. Gardner said if the mayor didn’t meet with him by Wednesday, he and his supporters would march on City Hall the next day.

“Chicago can be an example of what changes have to be made to see that Afro Americans get their share of contracts in this city and it certainly can be done,” Gardner said, adding that other U.S. cities have similar problems.

Gardner blamed the mayor for not working with aldermen to prevent the lack of blacks on the construction sites. “I am not going to stop at 87 years old until it is corrected,” he vowed.

Mayor Emanuel told Gardner that the CTA Red Line construction work is very important to him and that “many African Americans will be working on that project.”

Gardner said the mayor “will be dealing with the union folks right away, but they know all of the answers. They know what they are doing and what they are not doing.”

Asked if he is going to shut down more job sites, Gardner made it clear. “Our job is not to shut down sites. Our job is to try to make life better for particularly African Americans.”

Gardner said C.O.A.L. has promised him they will see that blacks will get “an improved share of jobs throughout the city of Chicago.
“They have accepted the mayor’s challenge to see that more blacks bid on contracts, more blacks have a fair share of getting those contracts” in a manner that would be smoother and more friendly process than in the past.

Gardner said he is not against other ethnic groups working “but not at the expense of black families who can’t feed their children, young black men escaping into drugs and narcotics…no jobs and drug business very, very high and that should stop.”

Having looked at several construction sites in black communities, Gardner said many times black contractors bid on jobs but are “bypassed” and “somehow those journeymen who somehow the unions send out are not African American. They can certainly bid cheaper preventing Afro American contractors from fairly getting their fair share of business.”

In September, Gardner held a jobs protest in Evergreen Park where more than 2,000 people joined him. However, Mayor James Sexton has been working with Gardner and the two major developers of the construction site on Western Avenue between 92nd and 95th Streets, Meijer’s and Menards, to get as many blacks hired as possible.

Written by Chinta Strausberg
StreetWise Contributor

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