“The Recession hit me hard,” said Ed Mayer, who worked steadily as a journey level construction worker out of the Laborers Union Local 440 before the economy tanked. Living much of his adult life in the Puget Sound, Ed reaches out to young people about the importance of being active in their community and fighting for social justice.
During his unemployment Ed did whatever he could to stay busy and give back – mentoring youth at Seattle Vocational Institute, participating in community rallies, and educating himself about green jobs.
Yet despite his optimism, skills, union membership and work experience, opportunities just kept passing him by. “At a certain point, I got tired of seeing companies come into my community, take my taxpaying dollars, and not include people who look like me or live in the community like I do.”
Ed’s perception of racial inequity during the recession is backed up by hard data. According to Washington Kids Count, the 2010 unemployment rate in Washington State was 21% for African American workers, vs. 10% for white workers.
Inspired by stories like Ed’s, Got Green teamed up with Working Washington’s Fight for A Fair Economy Campaign last April to knock on doors from the Central District to Skyway and talk with low income families about the economy.
On the heels of the door knocks, Got Green and Working Washington organized dozens of unemployed workers of color and women workers from South Seattle and beyond into an action-oriented committee dedicated to following the dollars on big construction projects and agitating for jobs.
After just a few meetings in the summer of 2011, the South Seattle Jobs Committee quickly targeted the Rainier Beach Community Center (RBCC) for immediate action. While the new community center is being built green, Jobs Committee members were appalled to learn that there is no requirement for the contractor to hire locally. Through pickets, press conferences, and a community petition drive the committee is turning up the heat on the Mayor’s office to make good on his promise of good jobs for Southeast residents.
While keeping pressure on the RBCC project in the short term, the South Seattle Jobs Committee has set its sights on a campaign to have broader impact in the future: A city-wide policy to require local, targeted hiring on construction projects – benefitting both the planet (less gas to get to work) and communities of color hardest hit in this economy.
Ed’s vision will help steer the South Seattle Jobs Committee into 2012 and beyond, “Green jobs are our future and it’s important because it’s another way out of poverty for people in our community… it’s our job to make sure no one is left behind.”
(Got Green 2010-2011 Organizing Report, April 2012)