After several years of seeing Philadelphia fail to meaningfully diversify the city’s booming construction and building trades, Black workers want change.
More than 50 construction labor unions call the greater Philadelphia region home but only one, the Laborers District Council Local 332, has a predominantly Black membership.
“We’re still talking about inclusion? I’ve been off the set for 17 years, that’s sad,” Randy Jubilee, a contractor turned business owner of Jubilee HVAC Group said Tuesday at a panel discussion hosted by the West Philadelphia Promise Zone and the city’s Economic Opportunity Committee. “If we’re truly about it, make it happen. Put in the residency requirement for apprenticeships like it used to be, you build up the tax base, you stop the violence, and give more opportunities for jobs because if we’re going to be real about it, quotas don’t work.”
Robert Paul is a sheet metal worker with 49 years of experience. After decades of frustration, he stopped waiting for the city to help diversify the trades and became a recruiter for the union.
“Everybody wants to talk about it, make a lot of hoopla, and make it this big long struggle,” Paul said. “Well, I don’t want to hear that.”
He focuses on recruitment at his church, Piney Grove Baptist Church, and offers help to anyone who needs help passing aptitude tests. He even brought seven young members that he is recruiting from his church to the panel.
“We’re doing it,” he said. “We take 12 weeks to teach you the seven parts of that test. And once you pass it, you still have to come back and we get you ready for the interview part. I want people in this union to look like me.”