If you’re D.C. resident looking for a construction job on a federal project and feel like you’ve been given short shrift, head on over to the Rayburn House Office Building tonight at 6 p.m. and tell Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton about it. Or at least listen to her talk about it.
Norton is hosting a roundtable that includes contractors on large federal projects like the GSA headquarters and the Smithsonian African American Museum of History and Culture. There will also be District residents who work on those projects there to discuss “their experiences getting work on these federal construction projects, the work they are currently doing on those sites, and other questions that can help guide other residents looking for similar work,” per a release from Norton’s office.
“We are interested in finding ways to get our residents and small businesses hired, rather than criticism that is not remedy-oriented,” Norton says in a statement. ” It is unacceptable for D.C. residents and small businesses to be sitting on the sidelines as federal dollars meant to provide jobs flow to construction projects in their home town.”
But the problem, according to the Rev. George C. Gilbert, Jr., who heads the advocacy group D.C. Jobs or Else, is that Norton isn’t letting those residents who can’t find jobs on federal projects talk about why they haven’t been able to land those jobs.
“She’s not hearing anyone from the unemployment side of the table,” he says, adding that Norton is only likely to hear the “company line” from workers who speak tonight. He says that he’s accompanied qualified job as they apply for work on the museum and seen those applicants”ignored, turned away, or misled about job application procedures.”
A spokesman for Norton did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Gilbert has organized a rally before tonight’s roundtable to protest Norton’s decision to exclude those workers’ testimonies. It’s at 5:30 p.m. at the park by South Capitol Street and C Street SW.
Update: A statement from Norton’s spokesman:
“We welcome actions by residents that help us hold federal contractors accountable. This evening’s roundtable hearing is an important accountability tool, and we have invited contractors and public officials whom we will hold accountable, as well as D.C. residents on the job, whose experience can help us in guiding other residents in finding similar work. This evening’s hearing is devoted to a half-dozen downtown federal construction sites in progress, and to the Smithsonian African American Museum of History and Culture, which is in its start-up phase.”
Photo by Darrow Mongtomery