Sometime in late March of 2013, an African American construction trade association, Gentlemen of the Round Table, will be looking forward to its meeting with the Sports Facilities Authority to present its members’ credentials qualifying them to work on the Viking’s People’s Stadium. What a difference a plan makes to enable meeting a dream and vision of minority inclusion.
This group of 100 Black men in the construction trades, based in Kansas City, Missouri, was formed seven years ago. All are journeymen. Over half own their own businesses. Some are currently officers in their unions. All are prepared to come to work in Minnesota, just as their White stadium construction counterparts do: working anywhere in the USA where their major construction specialties are needed. They meet and exceed the high standards of the industry.
Some of these Gentlemen of the Round Table have previously lived in Minnesota. They follow the events of the Twin Cities, know the Minnesota scene, are well versed on Minnesota politics, and are prepared to make up for the lack of skilled African American stadium construction trade journeymen in Minnesota.
They are aware that statements by Mortenson that all workers on the stadium project must be residents of Minnesota are legally and constitutionally open to challenge. Given poor workmanship on some major projects, particularly our bridges, everyone should expect — demand — the best, most qualified construction journeymen to work on the Vikings People’s Stadium. We welcome highly qualified artisans, qualified to work and to engage in honest and productive workforce negotiations.
The Star Tribune reported that Mortenson told the Sport Authority it will utilize Minneapolis’ Uni-Systems, a leading firm in retractable roofs (they have done five of the last seven for NFL stadiums). The Gentlemen of the Round Table are extremely aware of the philosophy and mechanical reputation of Uni-Systems.
Does that mean the Vikings People’s Stadium will have a retractable roof? If so, where is its funding? And where will the workers come from given that Uni-Systems outsources, as it only has 37 permanent employees?
This will be an historic marriage of professionals: Mortenson with Uni-Systems, the Gentlemen of the Round Table, the Sports Facilities Authority, the Minnesota Vikings, and the NFL. Ted Mondale, after admitting there was no equity plan for Target Field, asked, ”Give us a chance,” meaning a chance to bring meaningful equity hiring diversity for the Vikings stadium.
African Americans will now have a meaningful, productive, and profitable seat at the table of inclusion. The Kansas City, MO group, 440 miles down I-35 as the crow flies, is to be commended for having a plan for the inclusion of all. This workforce will enable Minnesota to meet its human rights policy goal of 32 percent participation by minorities and women on such projects.
This is huge. As we have reported before, Minnesota contractor associations, Black and White, have stated Minnesota doesn’t have laborers in the construction specialty categories for stadiums. We confirmed this in January when we reported no African American participation in those categories.
The Gentlemen of the Round Table, through meaningful and honest negotiations, will bring wonderful change and be on the Vikings People’s Stadium site as part of the 7,500 construction work force. Maybe now it can be completed by July 2016.
Problems remain that have nothing to do with workers. Neither retractable roof in Texas (Cowboys, Oilers) works well; they don’t fully close due to mechanical problems. And the Indianapolis (Colts) retractable roof is limited by not being waterproof. These issues would be huge in Minnesota where climate is a monster.
Another question: Given how this state was unable to verify racial numbers in past stadiums and arenas, what tracking software will they use to verify that 7,500 workers are from this state? And if hiring only Minnesota workers, what about those in Wisconsin who drive into Minnesota to go to work? And where is the financing for the heating pipes to be put under the Gophers’ playing surface, as directed by the NFL? And where is the financing/funding for a retractable roof and for the Vikings Plaza?
The Kansas City group understands the attempts in Minnesota to deny African Americans on major projects. Hence, they have retained legal counsel and are prepared to mount a legal challenge if denied.
And if serious questions haven’t been answered by the $100M paid in, do the Vikings spend yet more money? Or do they cut their losses and move to L.A.?
Ron Edwards hosts “Black Focus” on Channel 17, MTN-TV, Sundays, 5-6 pm, and hosts Blog Talk Radio’s “Black Focus V” on Sundays, 3-3:30 pm and Thursdays, 7-8:30 pm, providing coverage about Black Minnesota. Order his books at www.BeaconOnTheHill.com. Hear his readings and read his columns, blog, and solution papers for community planning and development, at www.TheMinneapolisStory.com. Columns are archived at www.theminneapolisstory.com/tocarchives.htm.