A group of black elected officials yesterday demanded an increase in the number of African Americans in the city's Building Trades unions and a detailed report from District Attorney Lynne Abraham on an incident in which a hangman's noose was used to taunt a black worker at the Comcast construction site in Center City.
Flanked by four City Council members at a City Hall, news conference, Sen. Anthony Hardy Williams said, "No longer can we have young men dying in record numbers because they don't have money in their pockets to provide for their families," Williams said.
Beside him were Council members Marian Tasco, Donna Reed Miller, Blondell Reynolds Brown and W. Wilson Goode Jr.
"No longer can we stand on the sidelines and have taxpayers - the majority of whom are people of color - pay for public property construction and have that money go out of the city to people who don't look like us and share our values," Williams added.
The senator and others assailed the recent testimony before Council by Building Trades business manager Pat Gillespie that he could not produce data on the racial makeup of construction unions.
"That performance by Pat Gillespie last week in Council was not acceptable by any human compassionate standard. It spoke to a tone of intolerance . . ." Williams said.
"There are too many within the Building Trades who don't share the values of diversity and inclusion...," He said
The news conference was held as City Council was set yesterday to consider the operating agreement between the city, state and the Convention Center. That measure was amended last week to allow nonunion contractors and their employees to bid and work on the $700 million project.
"The people behind me today have spent countless hours protecting the unions in the city of Philadelphia. Not one of them has been union bashing," Williams said.
He assailed the Oct. 1 incident in which a hangman's noose was waved allegedly waved in the face of Paul Solomon, a black construction worker by a white coworker.
"Maybe the noose hanging incident is a red herring, but we expect the D.A. of this city to come forward and give a full disclosure report. ... We also expect to find out why a noose was hanging at a construction site and . . . we expect those worksites to reflect the city of Philadelphia."
Williams said the Convention Center expansion must be done by union labor.
"We are not going to bend over and accept the veiled promises we did when we built the stadiums," Williams said