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MINORITY SHORTFALL ANGERS MASIELLO
SCHOOL BUILDING PROJECT FALLS BELOW HIRING GOAL

Just two months after lambasting union leaders, Mayor Anthony M. Masiello criticized contractors Monday for not hiring enough minority construction workers.

Masiello, during a meeting of the Joint Schools Construction Board, reacted angrily to news that the $1 billion school construction project fell below its goal for minority hiring in September.

"I'm tired of the BS," the mayor said of the contractors. "If they don't meet the goals, they won't get the contracts. If they don't perform, they won't get the work. And you can tell them I said that."

Masiello's tirade against local contractors working on the 10-year schools project came after compliance monitors reported minority hiring had fallen to 22.8 percent of the total work force. That's just under the goal of 23 percent.

"We always hold the unions accountable," Masiello said. "Well, we can hold contractors accountable too. We all win or we all fail."

Masiello's comments are the latest indication that the schools project may not meet all of its diversity goals.

Though the project has put 700 people to work and is meeting most of its work force goals, dozens of construction contractors are not hiring enough minority and female construction workers.

"The people aren't there," said Clarke Eaton of Eaton Associates, a minority-owned business working on the schools project.

Eaton said contractors face legitimate obstacles in finding minority workers, especially for specialized work such as elevator construction. He said he tried but failed.

Masiello's criticism of contractors came just a month after the building trades released a report that found one out of every 10 unionized construction workers in the region is a minority and only one out of 50 is a woman.

The numbers offer the latest glimpse of the racial and gender makeup of the region's 18 building trade unions as they try to diversify their rank-and-file membership, a key aspect of the city's school construction program.

Two years ago, the trades signed a pledge to integrate their membership as part of a labor agreement that, in return, gave the unions assurances that the project would be largely a union job.

The agreement, however, gives contractors the ability to hire non-union minority workers if unionized minority employees can not be found.

The board, in other action, approved a plan to borrow $310 million for the project's second phase.

e-mail: pfairbanks@buffnews.com

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