Ward 8 Job Seekers "Locked Out" by GSA

WI Staff Report | 4/7/2011, 2:04 p.m.

Gated Entry, Locked Out Opportunities at Job Opportunity Trailer

Kneeled in prayer, more than 100 Ward 8 residents came to the General Services Administration (GSA) Jobs Opportunity Trailer to turn-in employment applications, but after being locked out, were led in prayer by DC Jobs or Else! spokesman and noted civil rights attorney Donald Temple.

Clark/GSA's hiring practices have been called into questioned by DC Jobs or Else! but it was a surprise to all that the trailer that is normally open until 4pm on weekdays was closed when workers arrived at 2pm. Apparently GSA was alerted that qualified DC residents were coming to turn-in applications for the available construction jobs. And that was justification enough for GSA to close the gate. By 3:15pm, when all the workers had left, the gate was reopened.

"Obviously there are numerous jobs on this massive construction project - the largest ever in DC, so why are qualified residents East of the River consistently denied opportunities. The government can bail out Wall Street and all the banks, but can't invest in people who deserve a chance to support their families," said Temple.

Today's lockout by GSA is just the latest in a series of actions that directly communicates Clark's/GSA's message to Ward 8 residents: the economic benefits associated with the $3.4 billion St. Elizabeth's East Campus Redevelopment Project will not make a difference in Ward 8 to help eradicate the city's highest unemployment rate through the numerous construction jobs as promised by Clark/GSA. Locking out residents now adds new tactics to a long pattern of muddled and unjust hiring practices by the giant contractor.

A perfect example of contractor misconduct is the structure of Clark Concrete Contractors, a subsidiary of Clark Construction, who is scheduled to perform work on the St. Elizabeth's project. That company has been placed on a list of 22 contractors that the DC Department of Employment Services has under investigation for violations of the District's First Source Agreement Program.

"I am sick and tired of out-of-towners getting our local jobs. I live here in the District, am qualified to do this work, and have applied at both the 11th Street Bridge and St. Elizabeth's projects. I'm a qualified general laborer and experienced welder. A month later, I am still waiting for a call," said Willie Simpkins.

DC Jobs or Else! is fighting back for all the local residents who have been denied job access, and is sending a letter demanding changes to their misleading hiring practices. The demands include:

Institute Transparent Hiring Process: Explanation of the entire hiring process, Establish a Formal Applicant

Screening and Qualification Process: Clearly define job descriptions for each job type, job requirements, applicant qualifications and needed skills,

Create a GSA Master Applicant Database: Coordinate this effort with the District's Department of Employment Services and utilization of the District's First Source Agreement projects: Those applicants that do not pass the background check for work at the St. Elizabeth's Campus could meet the background requirement at other GSA projects within the District. A user-friendly database could be useful for job announcement and referral purposes at other GSA projects, Create a Condensed Concrete-Work Construction Readiness Training Program: Utilizing training funding to establish an intense and accelerated Concrete Readiness Training Program that focuses solely on the related concrete jobs. With this training program DC residents would meet the basic skill-sets needed for the concrete jobs/work; and establish a goal to hire one-third of direct construction employment opportunities for District residents within six (6) months.
DC Jobs or Else! demands a public response by Clark/GSA by April 15, 2011.