A group of state and local labor leaders has taken it upon themselves to continue the discussion on diversity and inclusion in the workforce based on last month’s AFL-CIO Labor Commission on Racial and Economic Justice meeting in St. Louis.
The national commission is exploring racial and economic issues within the Labor Movement through in-depth conversations with union members across the country. National and local labor leaders and rank-and-file union members gathered at the UFCW Local 655 Union Hall in January to discuss those issues.
The Greater St. Louis Labor Council hosted a continuation of that discussion on a local/statewide level on Feb. 12. The two-and a-half hour closed meeting consisted of nine participants, including:
- Jeff Aboussie, executive secretary-treasurer of the St. Louis Building Trades Council;
- John Gaal, director of training and workforce development for the St. Louis-Kansas City Carpenter’s Regional Council of Greater St. Louis;
- Sonja Golston-Byrd, president of the St. Louis Chapter of the Coalition of Labor Union Women;
- Jake Hummel, Missouri’s House minority leader and secretary-treasurer of the Missouri AFL-CIO;
- Mike Louis, president of the Missouri AFL-CIO;
- Lew Moye, president emeritus of the St. Louis Coalition of Black Trade Unionists;
- Keith Robinson, president of the St. Louis A. Philip Randolph Institute;
- Pat White, president of the St. Louis Labor Council.
“Just the fact that we’re having this conversation is huge,” said Rod Chapel, president of the Missouri NAACP, who joined the group by phone. “We really appreciate your efforts, and we’re here for you.”
The group’s first order of business was discussing ways to boost recruitment in the Building Union Diversity (BUD) program – a joint effort of the St. Louis Building & Construction Trades, the Eastern Missouri Laborers District Council and the Carpenters Regional Council. The next BUD program begins in March.
It was designed by the St. Louis Building Trades Council to increase diversity within the construction trades for minorities, women and the long-term unemployed residents of the St. Louis region interested in pursuing one of many available careers in construction.
During the meeting, Aboussie and Gaal presented an overview of the program, which has helped 85 percent of its participants earn apprenticeships. Those enrolled in the program spend a week in each of the nine participating trades to see it first-hand so they can determine the right trade for a career.
Members of the group said they would work together to spread the word about the program in their various communities. They also discussed some of the realities participants encounter after leaving the program including transportation issues because jobs in the construction industry are often transient and the need for ongoing trade mentoring programs.
The group agreed to keep itself limited to nine members – at least in its beginning stages – in order to develop specific objectives and goals. It plans to meet once a month.