A letter written by Martin Allen of People for Political and Economic Empowerment urged the Nontraditional Employment for Women not to honor Sheet Metal Workers Local 28 President Kevin Connors. Why? Because of the union’s decades-long discriminatory practices.
Allen sent the letter to NEW’s Kathleen Culhane, who would be presenting Connors with the award. In his letter, Allen outlined the reasons why Culhane shouldn’t honor Connors.
“As you should know less than three years ago Local 28 agreed to pay more than $12.7 million to settle a racial bias lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission,” wrote Allen in the letter. “That case focused on long-standing discrimination faced by Black and Brown members of Local 28—including women—who were unfairly denied work opportunities by the union’s leadership, which favored white members.”
Allen also wrote that despite the fact that Connors is new in his leadership position and wasn’t around for the recent old days, he believes that the award from NEW would send an alarm to Black and Brown workers.
“That is why it is so shocking to see you honor the president of Local 28 with an award meant to recognize commitments to equity and diversity in the construction industry,” continued Allen. “The fact that this is a relatively new president, and not one of the many who oversaw racial discrimination, makes no difference. This award is an insult to Black and Brown workers, including those who suffered discrimination at the hands of Local 28 leadership.”
Allen outlined what compelled him to write the letter.
“Day after day, females come into my office,” said Allen. “They hire them for a short period of time, but they don’t use them for the whole year. But they act like they got a perfect record. They act like they’re doing the community a service. They’re not.”
Allen said that women workers are hired for jobs, but work only 60 to 90 days before they’re let go. Yet they’re still counted in the stats as if they were on the job for the whole year.
“They should give awards to people that do the right thing,” said Allen. “They’re not. They’re lying.”
This isn’t the first time there was protest around Connors receiving an honor. Last year, the Building Trades Council honored Connors with an award celebrating diversity while the union was still paying off settlements from discrimination lawsuits. Allen said he is perplexed once more.
“They’re not keeping them on payroll,” explained Allen of women construction workers. “They’re using them for statistics. ‘We did more than our quota,’ but how long did they work? How long did you keep them working?
He continued, “They complain about women needing bathroom privileges, but of course they need that. They can’t use the same bathroom as men on sites. There’s a lot of things going on and that’s not fair.”