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Religious leaders from the inner city said a project labor agreement for the $1 billion Buffalo school construction and renovation project would employ many of the city's jobless and underemployed people.

They were joined by representatives of Buffalo Building and Construction Trades Council on Saturday in Pentecostal Temple Church of God in Christ on Broadway for a news conference announcing their support of a project labor agreement calling for a hiring goal of 25 percent minorities and women.

The renovation of 80 city schools and the construction of six new ones is expected to take 10 to 12 years.

The seven religious leaders represented churches with a combined membership of 12,000. Some of those members also gathered in the church for the news conference.

"Today is historic and significant in the revitalization of our community," said the Rev. Matthew L. Brown, pastor of Pentecostal Temple. "The faith community supports the construction trade union effort to establish a (labor agreement) because it ensures long-term employment opportunities for our parishioners."

Brown said this is the first time that the religious community has had direct relationship with union leadership. The relationship was established a few weeks ago with the objective of ensuring that minority and women project hiring goals are met.

"Faith leaders are thrilled with the opportunity to refer members of our respective groups to unions for training and employment," Brown said. "We look forward to a 10-year, $1 billion partnership."

Daniel Boody, president of the trades council, said the agreement is "all about inclusion."

"We finally have a great opportunity coming to the community, and everybody needs to benefit," Boody said.

He added that the council is looking to working with the religious community to surpass the set goal.

Boody believes the training and apprenticeship that the labor agreement will provide will elevate the standards of living for the poor.

He said opponents of the plan believe the agreement is not in the spirit of free enterprise and will restrict non-union contractors from bidding.

He called that a misconception.

"We are standing up for the working poor," he said. "We will fight to make this happen."

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