September 26, 2017
Honorable DeMaurice Smith
National Football League Players Association
Subject: Discriminatory Hiring Practices (NFL Stadium Construction Projects)
Dear Mr. Smith:
I hope that this letter finds you and your family doing well; especially your son with his Lacrosse endeavors.
I am writing you concerning a very serious matter. Your industry inspires the building of stadiums throughout NFL cities. These stadiums are worth billions of dollars in construction, design, and development costs. They also provide thousands of jobs for workers involved in the construction industry. The sad fact is that Black construction workers and Black owned construction/architectural and engineering firms have been continuously denied the opportunities that result from this activity.
Despite the civil rights movement that approached construction activities beginning in 1972 (with Arthur A. Fletcher), construction unions have pretty much remained segregated. Blacks may be allowed to participate in cement and general labor categories but the other trades which are higher paying remain in a Jim Crow status.
A recent example of this is the Levi Stadium, home to the San Francisco 49’ers. It was declared a Project Labor Agreement which means union rules. To participate in the activity all firms must abide by union rules and the workforce must come from union shops. These shops are void of diversity. 98 percent of all Black owned construction firms are nonunion because of this fact. In states that are declared “right to work” venues Black employment is three times greater than that of states that demand Project Labor Agreements. Under great scrutiny and protests, the Levi Stadium could not produce more than 1.6 percent minority participation. In a state that has a 54 percent minority population, that is blatant discrimination. The racial demographics in unemployment can attest to that.
Choosing such conditions is counter to the NFL’s legacy of meritocracy. I fondly remember the days when my father would take me to every Los Angeles Rams home game in the Coliseum. From Paul “Tank” Younger to the “Fearsome Foursome” and beyond football has been a love of my life. I am a better person for playing the game. The racial demographics today show that there is a level playing field in terms of player personnel. Shouldn’t the same apply to the construction workforce that is involved in building these fine stadiums?
In contrast to Levi Stadium, I point to the new African American Museum of Culture and History built here in DC. This $299 million construction project was designed by four Black owned design firms and two of the construction management firms were also Black owned. This was, of course, an open shop workplace. It resulted in over 61 percent minority contracting participation. No major project built in Washington, DC that was built under a Project Labor Agreement has ever exceeded 9 percent in minority contracting participation. The evidence is clear and convincing.
These new stadiums are publicly funded which makes them applicable to Title VI and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. In other words, discrimination is illegal. Yet, it continues and will not stop until strong leaders such as yourself will make a change. Black unemployment in our nation is strongly disappointing. We can begin to address this in the construction workplace by demanding an end to Project Labor Agreements. Construction unions have been on notice for nearly 50 years and have yet to adhere to our laws.
We pray that the NFL Players Association and subsequently the MLB and NBA counterparts will step forward in heroic fashion to end this “economic cancer” on our society. Let us build the upcoming arenas and stadiums void of Project Labor Agreements.
Harry C. Alford