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SCHOOL BOARD PANEL TO PRESS FOR MINORITY HIRING ON PROJECT

A committee of the Joint Schools Construction Board wants to take concrete steps to make sure contractors on the massive Buffalo Public Schools project are hiring enough minority workers.

Members of the board's Inclusion Committee plan to keep up pressure on individual contractors who aren't meeting the overall goals for minority and women hiring. In particular, they said there's no reason for contractors to miss monthly deadlines for filing hiring data.

And committee members and supporters of its work want to make it easier for minority workers who aren't union members to get jobs.

"I don't want this committee to be another place where we receive information and don't do anything about it," Brenda McDuffie, Buffalo Urban League president, said at Monday's committee meeting in City Hall. McDuffie was one of 18 people at the meeting but is not a member.

The session was only the third this year for the committee, formed to focus on issues of minority and woman representation on the $1 billion, 10-year construction project.

Contractors working on the project, overseen by LPCiminelli, are supposed to meet goals of 23 percent minority and 7 percent woman employees.

As of September, 22.8 of the work force contained minority members and 7.27 percent were women, according to Larry Stitts, president of Bevlar & Associates, project diversity monitor.

Roy Rogers, chief operations officer for the Buffalo schools and a committee member, noted the board's contract with Ciminelli only requires that overall hiring meet the goals.

Minority hiring on this project "is not perfect, but it's way better than it has been on other construction projects," said Florence Thompson, a lawyer and committee member.

Masten Council Member Antoine M. Thompson, committee chairman, and others emphasized holding every contractor to those marks.

Bevlar officials are meeting with underperforming contractors and requiring them to come up with plans to boost minority hiring, Stitts said.

Any effort to address the problem must begin with requiring contractors to get hiring data to the board by the monthly deadline, McDuffie said.

The trade unions and many contractors say they're missing the hiring goals because there aren't enough qualified minority and women workers.

Lumon Ross urged the committee to establish a streamlined process that would allow contractors to hire non-union minority workers if the unions can't fill the need.

Ross, president of the area's Black Chamber of Commerce, complained that the trade unions are putting up obstacles to the hiring of non-unionized minorities. Daniel Boody, president of the Buffalo Building and Construction Trades Council, rejected that charge.

The committee ultimately formed a subcommittee that will meet to lay out a clear-cut process for hiring non-union workers when needed.

e-mail: swatson@buffnews.com

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