Stadium contract under negotiation — Civil Rights Dept. monitors contractor and worker inclusion



ThroughMyEyesnewIt appears the Minnesota Vikings will sign off in the next 30 days on the contract for monitoring hiring compliance on the construction of the Vikings’ stadium. It is rumored that Viking General Council Kevin Warren will handle the final say for the Vikings (Warren, a member of the Stadium Equity Review Panel, is the highest-ranking Black American business executive with an NFL team).

The negotiations between Alex Tittle, equity director for the Sports Facility Authority overseeing the Vikings stadium construction, and the Minneapolis Department of Civil Rights (MDCR) have been going on for at least two weeks, as of the writing of this column. Why are they being held in secret?

The selection of the Minneapolis Departmentof Civil Rights (MDCR) to monitor hiring compliance raises troubling questions, which I assume the Authority’s and Vikings’ attorneys are examining. Re-read the excellent July 4, 2013 Charles Hallman article in this newspaper, “Minneapolis Civil Rights to post monitored construction projects online.” His investigative report raises serious questions about MDCR competency and transparency, despite the promise that the monitoring chart will show who is or is not meeting workforce goals.

Mr. Hallman’s article is another in the occasional reporting by this paper reflecting upon the MDCR’s inability and/or unwillingness to both measure and complete statutory responsibilities. Mr. Hallman reported that the MDCR was unable to respond by press deadline to clarify certain projects and the issue of non-compliance, continuing a practice we have reported on for a decade: the absolute refusal of the MDCR to provide reliable and transparent information consistent with the requirements of ordinances and laws.

The MDCR’s multi-colored chart won’t display two key Minnesota elephants in the middle of the hiring compliance living room. One, the refusal to use “African American,” so that, as before, “minorities can be hired without hiring a single African American,” and two, the good-faith-legislative escape hatch remains wide open: minorities don’t have to be hired if “best efforts” don’t generate “qualified” workers.

Contractors have already said there are no qualified workers. We look to Mr. Warren to make sure that travesty is not continued. Our consistent warning of this since 2005 regarding the coming $5 billion in construction has been consistently ignored. It’s a good thing that the African American Gentlemen of the Roundtable in Kansas City are available.

Is it naïve to assume that Mr. Tittle, the Sports Facility Authority, and the NFL Vikings’ Mr. Warren will place absolute requirement and protocols into the contract language that will provide for immediate sanction against any and all, be they the general contractor, subcontractors, or the monitoring entity, if there are violations of provisions of contracts and Memorandums of Understanding, and that “African Americans” will be specified as such, not just as “minorities”? We will be monitoring them.

The MDCR purposefully mismanaged monitoring the Twins Target Field and Gopher’s TCF stadium construction efforts (few if any African Americans were invited). Who will staff monitoring and carry out the responsibilities: monitoring compliance, implementation of workplace goals, and provide immediate recommendations to initiate actions in cases of statutory non-compliance and/or non-performance by those working on the Vikings’ stadium?

All concerned must pay attention to the lawsuit filed involving the construction of the Hudson, Wisconsin hospital, done by Mortenson Construction (Vikings’ stadium’s general contractor). WCCO, Channel 4, broke the story Monday, July 8, 2013. According to the lawsuit, current workers at that hospital are working under dangerous conditions and circumstances (glass used wasn’t suitable to protect x-ray/imaging workers from radiation exposure). Given the amount of glass to be used in the Vikings’ Stadium, what needs to go right with the choice of and installation of the stadium glass? And what is Mortenson doing to make sure nothing goes wrong as it did in Hudson?

The construction of the Vikings stadium will be one of the most demanding undertakings in recent memory. Given the deadline of July 2016, there is not time for slowdown, work stoppages, or litigation that obstructs meeting the July 2016 opening date. And yet here we see secret negotiations taking place by Mr. Tittle. Why?

It is important that Mr. Tittle, Mr. Warren, Mr. Wilf, and NFL commissioner Mr. Goodell, and a host of others, make sure that the interests of the citizens and interests of the tax payers of Minnesota are provided for and protected. And that means that the expectation of the African American community is met to participate fully and without the restriction of the traditional failure in Minnesota to retain and hire African Americans and others of color.

So we look forward to hearing of intentionally meaningful and fruitful negotiations resulting in a monitoring team that knows, understands and will willingly carry out their responsibilities, acting with integrity and transparency in building the Vikings’ Stadium. This we truly hope.

Stay tuned.


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