Outrages: Lack of diversity in the trades

Reporting, analysis and commentary
by Jim Heaney, editor of Investigative Post

Charlotte Keith reported last week about the lack of diversity in local trade unions. Minorities account for 17 percent of the workforce in Erie County, but only 11 percent of membership of 18 building trade unions. What’s more, that number has barely budged over the past decade, despite a pledge by the unions to dramatically diversify their membership.

A fair amount of the blame falls to the unions, but there’s plenty of blame to go around. Unions and community groups that recruit and train minority job candidates generally don’t get along. They accuse each other of a lack of communication. Beyond that, some union leaders suggest some of the community groups are inept; some in the community regard the unions too much of a closed network at best, and racist at worst.

Meanwhile, politicians, who could and should be playing a constructive role, are nowhere to be found, aside from Erie County Legislator Betty Jean Grant.

Regardless of who is at fault, the result is that there is not a reliable pipeline of minority workers entering the trade unions.

Steve Brown and I discuss on this week’s edition of Outrages & Insights. I also tackled this topic last week in an interview with Susan Arbetter on The Capitol Pressroom.