The City Council debate over whether nonunion companies and workers should participate in the Convention Center expansion drew criticism yesterday from leaders of the "10,000 Men: A Call to Action" crime-fighting effort, who called for greater inclusion of minorities in the construction industry.
At a Center City news conference, record mogul Kenny Gamble and others gathered to support activist Bruce Crawley's and minority contractors' demands for more minority involvement.
But Gamble was troubled over the focus on a provision Council enacted last week opening the door to nonunion firms as punishment for Building Trades' unions refusal to provide information about minorities in their ranks.
"We are unwilling to have our community drawn into a situation where there is a public attempt to pit our few union members against those in our community who have not been able to join unions," Gamble said.
Councilman Frank DiCicco sponsored the nonunion amendment to Convention Center legislation last week after Building Trades business manager Pat Gillespie couldn't provide data on the racial composition of construction unions.
DiCicco followed up yesterday with a letter to Pat Eiding, president of the Philadelphia AFL-CIO Council, warning that the intransigence of the Building Trades could kill plans for Convention Center expansion.
Council is under pressure to approve the expansion this year in order to keep the construction project on schedule.
Eiding said in an interview last night that many Building Trades unions are bringing in more minorities but that DiCicco's action will only hurt those looking for opportunity.
"We're working on an agreement with real numbers for minority inclusion, but he's changed the discussion to whether non-union contractors will work at the Convention Center," Eiding said.
"The people who really need inclusion are left out of the discussion."
On another front, Walter Palmer, president of the General Building Contractors Association, said he has met twice with Crawley on the issue of minority inclusion, and has been working to get minority-participation data from construction unions.
"Some have been forthcoming, some haven't," Palmer said, "but my goal is to get real information that will help us go forward. Some unions are doing very well.
"Bruce has raised an important issue, and we're committed to helping diversify the workforce." * Staff writer Mark McDonald contributed to this report.