Keir Chapman SYRACUSE, N.Y. (NCC News) — Syracuse celebrated it’s lowest unemployment rate in 18 years this September. Strides have been made to put people to work, but residents haven’t rested on their laurels just because of this progress.
Focus Greater Syracuse hosted a three-part forum on economic development in Onondaga County. On Friday’s rendition, attendees had the opportunity to discuss their concerns about the job market in the area. Chief among the topics of conversation, was how to ensure contractors hired construction workers from the area.
The Urban Jobs Task Force (UJTF ) in Syracuse has made it a mission to keep these types of jobs in the city. Aggie Lane, Vice President of UJTF, said contractors would hire their own team from out of town, and exclude residents looking for work.
“Some contractor would bring their whole crew in from the suburbs, and do the work,” Lane said. “And, people needing work were watching this and [saying] ‘I could do that.'”
According to Lane, the UJTF played a pivotal role in getting residents work in 2014, when Syracuse decided to renovate the city’s schools. Lane said the joint school’s construction board decided to hire 10 percent minority, and 10 percent women workers.The UJTF fought to ensure 20 percent of these employees, were from Syracuse.
Currently, the UJTF is petitioning to have contractors hired to the I-81 Viaduct Project, include local workers for the job. The task force’s fear is that the project will be a Project Labor Agreement (PLA), in which, a government awards contracts for public construction to unionized firms.
Dekah Dancil, President of UJTF, said a PLA may exclude minority and women workers. She believes a public-funded project should take in to consideration the public’s voice.
“Construction jobs are 30, 40, 50, dollars an hour. If you’re working on a highway, it could be more,” Dancil said. “This is a publicly-funded project. The public should have a say in who is going to get the work.”