Byline: Joaquin Beltran
Within one year of its launch, the Black Worker Center (a Liberty Hill grantee) has proven to be an effective grassroots organization as exemplified through its contribution to the Sept. 29 victory at the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) Board meeting when the Board gave staff the go-ahead to begin negotiating a project labor agreement (PLA) construction careers policy with the Los Angeles and Orange County Construction Trade Council.
As part of UCLA’s Center for Labor Research and Education, the Black Worker Center was created to focus on job creation and economic development in the African American community in Los Angeles. In regards to the MTA victory, Lola Smallwood Cuevas, founder of the Black Worker Center, explains “our goal is to double representation of Black construction workers on transit projects, particularly on projects that align with predominantly Black neighborhoods.”
Working as part of a coalition, the Black Worker Center was able to win the first transit authority project labor agreement and local hire policy in the nation. “The five-year agreement covers $70 billion worth ofprojects and is estimated to create more than 270,000 jobs,” said Cuevas.
The strategies employed by the Black Worker Center--education, advocacy, and coalition building-- have been effective in creating more opportunities for job creation. Explaining its successful strategy implementation, Cuevas says, “We put the issue of Black worker discrimination on the table and provided viable solutions to address the issue. As a result of our research and advocacy, the Black Worker Center has been invited by the Los Angeles Mayor Villaraigosa and the Builiding and Construction Trades Council to join a working group to develop the agreement’s anti-discrimination and disadvantaged worker criteria language.”
The next step is for the project labor agreement to be written and ratified.
Joaquin Beltran is a CORO public affairs fellow at Liberty Hill.