The greater Boston region is facing the largest building boom since the Big Dig. Billions of dollars are slated for development over the next decade and everyone is excited about the number of jobs that will be created and the domino effect on the economy, including on the neighborhoods where the workers reside.
Still, there is concern about which workers may, once again, be left out and which neighborhoods may not benefit from trickle down economics.
The largest single project by far will be the Wynn Casino in Everett. It will create approximately 4,000 construction jobs over several years and another 4,000 permanent jobs. During the application process for the casino gaming license, in response to public community input, Wynn made several written commitments to meeting the diversity levels in the region in its employment impacts, including developing “a workforce that reflects the diversity of the region.” In addition, they have consistently said—as recently as the Feb. 17 contractor bidders’ conference—that the low state diversity standards are a floor they want to exceed, not a goal to meet.
Census data show the 20 towns and cities around Everett together are 41 percent diverse. With this more accurate sense of who we are in this region, we are looking for at least 1,640 construction jobs and another 1640 permanent jobs for diverse workers.
Historically, people of color have been under-represented in the building trades in Massachusetts. We do not see strategies in place to create the scale of diverse workforce that is needed. Remember, this is not the only project that will need to include diversity in its workforce.
What does doing the right thing mean?
• For the casino mega-project, Wynn is the owner and must drive its construction manager and subcontractors to meet the goals that reflect the region’s changing demographics. Wynn must demand that unions open their doors to create the diverse pipeline and ensure the services are in place to create the pipeline of skills they need from communities of color.
• Suffolk Construction must reach out to the community groups that have been meeting with Wynn to seek their help in building a pipeline from communities of color and identifying women to enter the trades. They must use their size as a general contractor to shape an On Jobs Training “pipeline” from project to project so workers of color and women can increase their skills on the job. Suffolk obtained good diversity numbers when they built the Kroc Center, but they did it with the help of community partners such as the Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative.
• The Gaming Commission must weigh in and see that this project meets the goals embedded in the state statute and addressed in Wynn’s diversity strategy.
• The building trades unions must open their doors more often and bring in more local workers of color and women to enter the pipeline now!
This is an amazing opportunity for communities of color in Everett, Chelsea, Malden, Somerville, Boston and the entire region, and an amazing opportunity for Wynn, and all stakeholders, to do the right thing!
Marvin Martin is president of Action for Regional Equity. Edwin Argueta is the board president of La Comunidad, Inc.