CHICAGO (CBS) — The head of a powerful City Council committee was speaking out Tuesday, in support of Soft Sheen Products founder Edward Gardner, who has led a pair of protests over minority hiring for construction work.
WBBM Newsradio Political Editor Craig Dellimore reports Ald. Carrie Austin (34th), who chairs the Budget Committee, said she plans to join one of Gardner’s protests demanding more construction jobs for black workers.
She said, with so many laws promoting minority hiring, it shouldn’t be necessary for the 87-year-old Gardner to have to lead a movement for more black jobs in the construction industry.
“Those are things that we have already tried to put in place, but then there are those that have tried to skirt around that also,” she said.
LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio Political Editor Craig Dellimore reports
Gardner held the first of two protests last week in the Beverly neighborhood, after noticing there were no African American workers on a sidewalk and curb replacement job on West 95th Street, only whites and Hispanics. He also took his protest to neighboring Evergreen Park, after also noticing a lack of black workers on the crew building a new shopping center at 92nd Street and Western Avenue.
On Sept. 24, Gardner and a small group of protesters temporarily halted work on the Evergreen Park shopping center, demanding the private contractor doing the work hire African Americans to join the construction crew.
He also staged a larger protest on Sunday, when about 1,000 people stopped traffic at 95th and Western. He was joined by Congressmen Danny Davis and Bobby Rush, and a handful of other prominent African American leaders.
Austin said she hopes to join one of Gardner’s protests this week.
Gardner, 87, said he wants to assure that African Americans get their fair share of construction work, and Austin said she agrees.
“Why are projects being let, and there are no African Americans or minorities on any job? We should not still be fighting for that,” she said.
Hispanics have been seen on the two construction jobs Gardner has targeted, and while Austin acknowledged Latinos deserve a fair share of construction jobs, she said the issue now is why there aren’t more African Americans on those crews.
The contractor on the curb and sidewalk job in Chicago is a minority-owned firm, headed by a man of East Indian descent.
The mayor’s office has said it is looking into whether that company and other construction firms are following hiring guidelines for city construction contracts, and that any firm found to be violating hiring rules will be swiftly penalized.