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Workers > Blowback

Black Workers Embody The New Low Wage Economy

Aljazeera American 

by E. Tammy Kim

September 12, 2013

 

Amid recent Walmart and fast-food strikes, a chance arises to rethink African-American labor

Shomari Davis, of the IBEW union's Local 11, shakes hands with Lloyd Cooks, a painter and fellow member of the Black Labor Construction Council. E. Tammy Kim for Al Jazeera America

Shomari Davis, of the IBEW union's Local 11, shakes hands with Lloyd Cooks, a painter and fellow member of the Black Labor Construction Council.

E. Tammy Kim for Al Jazeera America

LOS ANGELES — Grant Henry and his friend Vance hung back under desert trees, avoiding the sun-baked center of Leimert Park. It was Saturday morning, the day before the nation’s largest union gathering, the AFL-CIO convention, was to kick off a historic “inclusion conference” a few miles away.

A mostly African-American crowd assembled in the park for a “Ready to Work” rally and jobs fair hosted by the nonprofit Black Worker Center. Henry, 52, a trained bricklayer and dues-paying union member, was currently unemployed and came in search of construction work.

“The union don’t do anything for blacks,” he said. “The foremen are all Hispanic -- they like to hire their own.”

“White people (once) looked at the ‘Spaniards’ as the new kids on the block. They thought they could get them for cheaper. But now it’s the same wages,” said 47-year-old Harlan, another construction worker in attendance. “No one can survive on $8. They’re not bad jobs; they're bad wages.”

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