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On July 7, Mayor Luke Ravenstahl signed an Executive Order calling for more minority participation in the construction labor market. This order comes in light of findings by organizations like the Regional Equity Monitoring Project, a group that studies equity throughout Pennsylvania.
“The mayor’s Executive Order attempts to address the under-representation of minorities and women in regards to contracts, trades, construction and the number of actual workers, aka labor participation,” said Project Director Celeste Taylor. “How this order plays out in actually increasing the number of jobs for minorities and women will depend on a lot of things.”
Though Taylor sees the order as a step forward, she is concerned with how effective it will be at increasing equity. Among others issues, she wonders whether or not the city will provide the resources necessary to ensure compliance with the order.
“Will this order be used as a way to mix up and cover up the actual numbers of minorities and women receiving contracts and working on jobs?” Taylor said. “Will the unions provide data on where they are at now in regards to minority labor participation and be committed to using best practices to make progress towards specific goals?”
REMP works to increase equity by compiling data through the use of citizen monitors. These monitors attend public meetings held by a variety of agencies involved in employment, health, criminal justice, elections, economic development and construction.
“Simply put, the monitors are people that care, who commit a few hours to witness, write down what it is and testify and/or show up when needed to advance the cause of equity and inclusion for minorities and women,” Taylor said. “You don’t have to be an expert but you must care and show up at different points in order to organize our concern into an effective movement for change.”
Now that they have moved forward in addressing equity in the construction labor market, REMP will begin to focus on equity in the Pittsburgh Public School District. Beginning in late September, they will train monitors for a project partnering with A+ Schools.
Monitors in the School Works program will conduct confidential interviews with principals throughout the district. They will collect data on staffing, training, coursework, support services, resources and learning opportunities for students.
“Huge disparities still persist that affect the lives of minorities and women in very negative ways and we can’t wait for political will or thinking because we are right, that someone will just do the right thing,” Taylor said. “But we must use the power of citizens, consumers to demand change based on evidence and advocating for policies that will provide real access and opportunities.”
To date REMP has monitored more than 175 meetings; made more than 200 Freedom of Information Act requests to monitor labor force participation, apprenticeship programs and contract awards; and monitored compliance with existing civil rights laws and standards.
“REMP has shared and will continue to share our findings, publications with all stakeholders to influence policy that will usher in changes in government, institutions, industries to ensure equity and inclusion throughout Pennsylvania,” said Taylor.
The mayor did not return calls for comment on the order and no press release is listed on the mayor’s website.
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