Dorsey Hager, Executive Secretary-Treasurer of the Columbus/Central Ohio Building and Construction Trades Council and Columbus National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) President Nana Watson appeared on the America’s Work Force Union Podcast and discussed how a Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) is a pathway to the middle class for the residents of Franklin County.
On the March 3 show, Hager and Watson spoke about the partnership between the C/COBCTC and the NAACP. The two have known each other for about nine years and two share similar views and ideas, as both have goals to advocate for the underrepresented citizens of Columbus, Franklin Country and Central Ohio.
When a new company is looking to build in Franklin County, some of the initial questions he is asked is if the building trades has the workforce to build this project and whether those workers reflect the makeup of the community.
Community Benefits Agreements, good for taxpayers and the community
Hager and Watson explained to AWF host Ed “Flash” Ferenc how CBAs are similar to Project Labor Agreements (PLA), but benefit the residents of the community where the specific project is located.
PLAs and CBAs are similar because they are contracts between the contractors working on the project and the project owner. Both clearly define the wages, hours and schedules of the construction workers and ensure the project will be finished on time and within budget.
Where PLAs and CBAs differ is the emphasized use of hiring local workers who reflect the community where the project is located.
Watson said it is important for Franklin County taxpayer money to stay in Franklin County and be paid to members of the community working on the projects.
She spoke about the recently created City of Columbus Community Benefits Agreement Advisory Board and the role the board will play in future city-funded construction projects.
Expansion of the Building Futures Program
Both Hager and Watson feel CBAs are helping Franklin County residents start on the pathway to the middle class, but more work needs to be done.
With so many construction jobs coming to Central Ohio, the need for skilled union labor is greater than ever before for all C/COBCTC affiliated Local Unions. One way to address this problem it to expand the Building Futures Program, which helps individuals from underrepresented communities learn the skills needed to join a registered apprenticeship program.
They spoke about the new partnership between the NAACP and C/COBCTC and how they hope to expand the Buliding Futures Program.
More women need to join the building trades
Several years ago, Watson pitched the idea of an all-female cohort for Building Futures. Last year, they not only had all-femlae cohort for Buliding Futures, but had one for Driving Futures as well.
Hager said that a typical woman of color who lives in Columbus without a high school degree earns about $12,000 annually. Graduates from the all-female Building Futures cohort went into jobs that offered between $22 and $29 per hour, depending on the trade – and this was before health and retirement benefits were added into the total package.
Both Hager and Watson feel Building Futures is a valuable tool that can help increase diversity, equity and inclusion.
Dispelling the myth about Unions to Minority Communities
Watson also discussed how she worked to dispel many myths in the community about being a union member. When the community members see the success of the their friends, family members and neighbors, they are more likely to want to join a union, she explained.
Watson noted how Hager and herself have gone to various community events to speak directly with members of the minority community to address common misconceptions about organized labor and believe the effort is beginning to pay off.