Metro employment initiative leaves South LA construction workers skeptical

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The Crenshaw/LAX light-rail corridor project, promises thousands of middle-class jobs to workers in high-unemployment areas across the nation, and workers in South L.A. and surrounding neighborhoods are hoping they get a fair chance at scoring these new jobs. 

The new initiative requires contractors on the project to reserve 40 percent of job slots for workers from low-income neighborhoods, which include some South L.A. neighborhoods along the rail line. The project labor agreement also will set aside 10 percent of jobs for disadvantaged citizens like veterans, disabled workers, the chronically homeless, and youth from foster and delinquent programs.

Metro is hailing the policy as the first of its kind in the nation.

But some community groups are wondering if workers from neighborhoods where the train actually passes through will see any of these jobs when construction begins in Spring 2014.

Drexell Johsnon-Muhammed, president of the Young Black Contractors Association, says the contracting company in charge of the project, Walsh/Shea, and others have a history of excluding black workers from large construction projects.

"We won't see any of these 3,000 jobs," said Johnson-Muhammed. "They are going to the same workers they have always gone to."

Johnson-Muhammed says black contractors only account for one percent in the construction business, and argues that the only way black construction workers, journeymen and other workers will get hired for these large, federally-funded projects is if black contractors are part of the process.

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