Chicago Women in Trades and Revolution Workshop Release Construction Workforce Equity Recommendations
Coalition addresses urgent workforce needs in light of historic federal infrastructure bill
Thursday, November 18, 2021 / Chicago, IL / Chicago Women in Trades and Revolution Workshop—two of Chicago’s leading Pre-Apprenticeship Construction Job Training providers—announce today the release of their Construction Workforce Equity recommendations for Chicago’s city government officials.
These recommendations come as the nation recognizes National Apprenticeship Week and as the federal government passes an historic infrastructure bill that includes $17+ billion in funds to repair Illinois and Chicago roads and bridges, expand broadband coverage, and more.
Yet there is little to celebrate for women and people of color. Nationally, just 3.6% of apprentices are women (Women Equity Center), and 6% of the Chicago construction workforce is Black (National Fund for Workforce Solutions). Poverty and unemployment are pervasive in Chicago’s Black and Brown communities. Combine these disheartening metrics with the fact that the Illinois Department of Employment Security is predicting nearly 20,000 annual job openings in the trades through 2028, and the coalition sees an opportunity.
“The unionized trades can offer family-sustaining careers with benefits and pensions that lift people of color and women out of poverty,” notes Jayne Vellinga, Executive Director of Chicago Women in Trades. “However, in the face of systemic racism and sexism, there has been little progress in expanding access for these underrepresented groups to these opportunities for economic mobility."
Bob Gallo, COO of Power Construction Company, LLC, one of the region’s premier general contractors, states that “currently, the percentages of women and people of color in the trades is much too low, and we have a looming talent shortage as our skilled craftspeople are aging. We have the responsibility, as a sector, to invest in equity and inclusion—both for the sake of our industry but also for the sake of our communities.”
The City of Chicago is currently in negotiations with the building trades to update the city’s Project Labor Agreement (PLA). The PLA is a multi-project agreement that will set hiring terms and conditions for public work projects over the next several years—including work connected to the monumental $1.2 trillion federal infrastructure bill.
If enacted, the coalition’s Construction Workforce Equity recommendations, which incorporate gender and racial equity requirements, would empower thousands of new workers and ensure that unionized trades are accessible to women and Chicago’s Black and Brown communities. The coalition seeks to embed these into a comprehensive Construction Equity Plan that includes the City’s Project Labor Agreement, city ordinances, and city investment in enforcement and support.
“Chicago is in the midst of a once-in-a-generation moment right now,” says Manny Rodriguez, Executive Director of Revolution Workshop. “There are monumental infrastructure investments being made at the federal, state, and local levels that will put a significant burden on the under-staffed construction sector. There’s racial reckoning across the city and the country. We implore the Mayor and Chicago’s City Council to take up the mantle of these recommendations as they make Project Labor Agreement policy decisions that impact our communities of color for the next decade.”
The coalition’s Chicago Construction Workforce Equity recommendations have a growing list of endorsers, including 10th Ward Alderwoman Susan Sadlowski Garza and 41 of her colleagues on Chicago City Council (see the list of recommendations for the complete list), Blackroots Alliance, Bulley & Andrews, the Chicago Jobs Council, Chicago Metro Labor Council for Latin American Advancement, Chicago United for Equity, Chicago Urban League, Chicago Women in Trades, Inner-City Muslim Action Network, Painters Local 184, Power Construction Company, LLC, Revolution Workshop, Shriver Center on Poverty Law, Southsiders Organized for Unity and Liberation (SOUL), St. Paul Community Development Ministries, Inc., The People’s Lobby, Women of 130, and the YWCA of Metropolitan Chicago.
Read the coalition’s Chicago Construction Workforce Equity recommendations here or visit https://bit.ly/ConstructionEquity
If you’re a community organization and would like to sign on in support of these recommendations, complete this form.