Coalition of Mental Health Professionals, Inc.

Los Angeles Metro (Metropolitan Transit Authority) Target Hiring Policy: In a coalition of local government agencies, trade unions and community organizations, we were central to a Public Works Projects Campaign to advocate that the Los Angeles County Metro adopt a five-year agreement that requires a targeted hiring program for transit projects, ultimately creating an estimated 23,000 union construction jobs. The agreement is the nation’s first master project labor agreement approved by a regional transportation agency. The campaign ensured the agreement incorporate rigorous diversity language. This language includes stronger disadvantaged criteria, including the formerly incarcerated and those emancipated from foster care; a requirement that disadvantaged workers be defined by at least two criteria; and federal civil rights and equal opportunity language, which includes affirmative action enforcement and monitoring.

Community Monitoring System and Compliance Report Card: The LA Black Worker Center (BWC) developed and piloted a community monitoring tool to foster greater community and worker participation in decision-making processes and to increase access to information in the public contraction arena. The tool provides a mechanism for accountability to the community on public infrastructure investments and how jobs are created. The BWC worked with graduate students and undergraduate research interns to develop a community monitoring tool called the “Public Construction Report Card,” which allows local residents and workers to evaluate and grade contractors’ past practices of employing a representative workforce. The report card evaluated contractors by using indicators such as community outreach and relations, accessibility, civil rights compliance, and transparency. The BWC supervised a team of BWC members and students who tested the report card tool in the field. The tool focused on four bidding contractors on the $1.7 billion Crenshaw/LAX Transit Corridor Project. Though this was a test of the tool, the results proved the public construction report card was a powerful monitoring mechanism in the high-stakes conversations with the contractors. In the end, each contractor team pledged to improve their “grades” and invited the BWC to be directly involved in their workforce pipeline process. The results of the report card pilot became the subject of high-level discussions between the office of Congresswoman Karen Bass, construction team executives, BWC members, and LA Metro staff.


1 Submitted Idea

  • 2013 Grants Challenge

    Partnership for Black Workers Rising

    Our idea is give Dante a chance to watch his neighborhood come alive again. We want to see Dante, a finishing carpenter and trained journeyman in his fifties, living in South Los Angeles, who remembers a time when city infrastructure projects meant work for his community, see his son, his niece, his friend, his neighbor, work again; see people from his neighborhood working on the subway line that will be under construction a few blocks from his home. We are dedicated to joining in Dante’s fight to end chronic unemployment and underemployment in his community.

    In Los Angeles, black unemployment hovers at nearly 20 percent, and is estimated to be significantly higher for black men ages 16 to 25. Of those who are employed, thirty percent of black workers in LA are in low-wage industries, earning $12 per hour or less. Lack of jobs and low-paying jobs in black communities in Los Angeles relate to specific health issues, including mental health risks like stress, depression and drug addiction.

    Partnership for Black Workers Rising is a project of the Coalition of Mental Health Professionals that will advance our goal to empower local residents to take charge of their communities. Created in collaboration with the Los Angeles Black Worker Center, the Partnership for Black Workers Rising project is rooted in the Civil Rights model of organizing community and workers to advocate for social justice. The project will focus on economic justice as a vehicle for African Americans living in Los Angeles to successfully navigate the problems of everyday life and to end the job crisis in our communities.

    The Partnership for Black Workers Rising challenges employers to foster equity and transparency in hiring practices, and provides a safe space for black workers to openly discuss issues related to their experiences in the workplace. The main objective is to offer peer support and solutions to address racism, discrimination as well as build skills and networks to turn knowledge into action. Our long-term goals of are to dismantle the barriers of employment discrimination, create access to quality jobs, and transform low-paying, low-skilled jobs into fulfilling and sustaining careers and vocations through unionization and leadership development. This project will develop the next generation of black leaders and a thriving black workforce in Los Angeles by promoting public policy advocacy and providing community education and leadership development.

    Public Policy Advocacy The project will continue our current programs that develop tools such as a “compliance report card” to engage community members in monitoring local hiring agreements in public construction projects. At the LA Black Worker Center the focus has been on: 1) compliance with antidiscrimination policies under the Civil Rights Act; 2) community relations; 3) access for all workers; 4) transparency in hiring practices; and 5) diversity on the job site. The compliance report card is an empowerment tool that gives community a voice in hiring standards, holds employers and agencies accountable, and brings workers and community together. We intentionally engage all residents in our monitoring campaigns, in part to build trust among diverse communities of Los Angeles, and to strengthen calls for economic justice, especially in communities of color. We will continue to provide community members with opportunities to educate their neighbors and disseminate information locally. In addition, local residents will disseminate results among peers and use this project to develop additional tools on future local project labor agreements. Community Education and Leadership Development We will provide trainings and mentorship for young black residents to increase their access and retention in construction and utility careers. We will expand current programs that prepare workers for the regulated construction industry by connecting young workers to experienced black workers in the building and construction trade unions. We recruit mentors in trade unions who can guide young black workers through the apprenticeship process. Mentees benefit from gaining broader perspectives and strategies for long-term, quality career choices and a support system and network contacts. This mentorship program promotes sustainable avenues for earning a living and positive intergenerational peer interaction. Within our education and mentorship program, we provide leadership development trainings that aim to prepare the next generation of workers, including union, low-wage, and the unemployed, to advocate for local improvements and mobilize our communities for change. Workers will build skills to develop campaigns and frame messages for the media. The idea is to advance the conversation from simply addressing individual solutions to strategies for systemic change that target the root cause of joblessness and underemployment in our community and build power for low-wage workers.