Community-Labor: A Coalition Whose Time Has Come

Posted by Miriam Axel-Lute on April 14, 2011

Ed Gorman of the NCRC board introduced Mark Ayers, president of the building trades department of the AFL-CIO, as “the man who is opening the door” to community-labor partnerships.

Speaking at a “special session” on New Alliances at the NCRC annual conference, Ayers told the room that the building trades are proud to partner with NCRC to create real opportunity and stand up against “mean-spirited attacks” from the radical right.

Ayers said that accusations of racism and insularity don’t reflect the reality of unions today, speaking of apprenticeship programs in public schools to “recruit people of all genders and races” and project-labor agreements and community workforce agreements that bring jobs into underserved communities and “leverage local government construction dollars to nurture a city’s skilled construction workforce of future.”

Bob Peck, commissioner at the federal General Services Administration in the real estate division, followed up Ayers’s remarks by talking about the way the 1500 buildings that GSA owns on the taxpayers’ behalf 1500 are being leveraged to “build up a community,” as job sources and as anchors for further development. President Obama issued an exective order not only to green government facilities (leased and owned), but also to locate them in CBDs, where there is transit-oriented, mixed-used development.

GSA:

Created 17,000 to 18,000 jobs with its Recovery Act money. Elections have consequences.
bq. Has begun experimenting with project labor agreements, and finding they work well, don’t usually cost more.
bq. Has added a requirement that any contract over $25 million is required to have training and apprenticeship program.

Peck closed by saying: “We are regarding our buildings not just as places that will be there for 100 years that Americans can be proud of, but places that are putting Americans to work now.”

(Photo credits: RH Photos Charles Matthews and Dave Patterson)

About the author more »

Miriam Axel-Lute is editor of Shelterforce and associate director of the National Housing Institute. Her email is miriam at nhi dot org.

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