To Get Black Workers Working, City Councilman Wants to Tap Felons

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Councilman Kevin Conwell’s outrage over the lack of black workers on the Patrick Henry Elementary School construction site has been grabbing headlines lately. And it would be a refreshing sign of progress, if not for a few minor details. Conwell blames the project's lily-white work site on the fact that the school district won’t hire felons. He wants to change state law to let that happen. From the PD's story: ...
Conwell says that a state law barring felons from working at school construction sites is unfair and that he is going to lead a drive to amend it. Conwell's comments came Monday as he led a protest of 75 people, many of them unemployed contractors and workers, in front of Patrick Henry Elementary School. The school is being rebuilt at Arlington Avenue and East 123rd Street in Glenville. "Nonviolent felons of any race should be able to work on a job site as long as there are no children around," Conwell said.
Conwell seems to have forgotten that screwing black workers is a long tradition on such city projects, and it has nothing to do with felony convictions. We’ve know for years that white contractors routinely hire black front companies, paying them a small fee to kick most of the work, and money, back to the white company [“Black on Black Crime,” February 21]. The reason black workers don’t show up on the job site is because the black company didn’t hire anyone — it never intended to do the work. This is not rocket science, nor is it a new phenomenon in the school district. Politicians of all stripes have watched silently as the scam has continued for more than a decade. Meanwhile, school district officials don’t have anybody on the ground checking to see that black workers and women are actually on the job sites. And even when they did, the monitors didn’t have any enforcement power. Did Conwell ever consider protesting all of this? -- Lisa Rab

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