Meeting of May 17, 2022 - Knocking Down Walls: Discrimination and Harassment in Construction - Transcript




Vice Chair




This transcript was produced from audio provided by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.




PARTICIPANT:  And now may I present Charlotte Burrows.

CHAIR BURROWS:  Good morning and welcome to today's public hearing of the U.S. Equal Opportunity Commission, Knocking Down Walls, focusing on discriminatory barriers in the construction industry.  The hearing will now come to order.

This hearing is being held in accordance with the requirements of the Sunshine Act and is open to the public.  Realtime captioning is available.  Please visit our website, for details on accessing this service.  Today's hearing falls on the anniversary of the Supreme Court's landmark decision in Brown v. Board of Education, and just days after a racially-motivated mass shooting took the lives of 10 Black people in Buffalo, New York.

As we mourn with the victims' families and the Buffalo community, it is painfully clear that in the 58 years since Brown was decided, American's halting progress in matters of racial justice has been unacceptably slow.  In recent years, violent persons motivated by racism, anti-Black hatred, and White supremacy are increasingly targeting people of color, immigrants, and members of religious minorities.  This violence is a symptom of a deeper intolerance that threatens this nation's most cherished ideals of fairness, equality, and justice.  All of us must confront and reject it in the strongest possible terms.  And that means actively creating a new culture of respect in our neighborhoods, our workplaces, and our Nation.  And while tackling employment discrimination is just one part of the solution, it's the part with which this agency is charged, and we take our role very seriously.  So I welcome and extend our heartfelt thanks to our panelists for your thoughtful written testimony and for joining us today for this important discussion.

America works best when it works for everyone. And while America continues to recover from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, we must ensure that all workers share equally in that recovery.  The construction industry is uniquely positioned to benefit from America's new and increasingly diverse workforce and millions of employees included underrepresented workers have a chance to contribute to our economy while gaining important professional skills and experience.  Unfortunately, although the industry has many responsible actors, some of the most severe cases of discrimination this agency has encountered arose in construction.  Women and workers of color face particular barriers in entering the industry and often encounter discrimination on the job.  While the EEOC effectively addresses such discrimination when it's reported to us, that's not enough, because most workers who experience discrimination and harassment never report it.

For many reasons, there's a compelling need for more sustained and comprehensive federal efforts to prevent discrimination and expand opportunity in this industry.  First, construction is one of America's largest industries and its significance will only increase due to the historic infrastructure investment provided by the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.  Second, construction has traditionally been a pathway to the middle class.  For skilled and semi-skilled workers who may not have a college degree, it offers significantly higher wages than some other industries. Workers can develop skills and contacts that are invaluable if they later choose to open their own businesses.  Third, unlawful discrimination in all forms has led to significant under-representation of women and workers of color in good-paying jobs in the building trades, presenting a serious problem for our economy and the industry's long-term success.

The EEOC's investigations have revealed discrimination on many protected bases in hiring, promotion, pay, assignments, training, dismissal, denial of accommodations for disability and pregnancy, harassment, and retaliation.  I want to recognize the courage and resilience of all the workers in this industry who've come forward to report discrimination.  While we've seen discrimination in many forms and on many bases from the industry, what stands out most is the egregious nature of harassment we have seen based on race, national origin, and sex in all geographic regions against women, African Americans, Asian Americans, Native Americans, Hispanics, and LGBTQI-plus construction workers.  Often the employer ignores or fires the workers when the worker reports the harassment.

To be clear -- and I recognize that some of this is difficult to hear, but the EEOC has obtained relief for workers including numerous Hispanic workers subjected to slurs and violence, including a Puerto Rican apprentice in Illinois whose coworkers called him racist slurs, stole his tools, threatened to kill him, and repeatedly kicked him in the head with steel-toed boots.  Black construction workers threatened with nooses, a phenomenon so chillingly common that the Washington Post devoted an entire article to the subject. From workers in California helping to build a new campus for tech giant Apple who faced racist graffiti, a noose, and a threat of lynching at the worksite to an employee of a North Carolina asphalt company whose coworker showed him a noose saying, quote, "This is for you.  Do you want to hang from the family tree?"

We've worked with female employees of an Alabama-based construction contractor whose supervisor played pornographic films, exposed himself, pressured them for sex, threatened them if they resisted, and sexually assaulted one of them. And a Pakistani whose shop foreman compared his skin color to "a turd," placed a cup of feces on his desk saying that it resembled the worker and threatened to rape him and leave him in a pool of his own blood.

In some instances, discrimination targeted not only workers of color but also minority-owned subcontractors which often employ a divorce work force.  One egregious example is the EEOC suit against Skanska USA Building Inc., in which our investigation found that after a Black back hoist operator reported racist incidents on the jobsite, including having urine and feces dumped on him from a portable bathroom, Skanska failed to effectively investigate and instead cancelled its contract with the minority-owned business that employed the worker and immediately filed all Black back hoist operators on the job.

Discrimination against women of color in construction is often a toxic mix of racialized and sexualized stereotypes and violence.  In our case against Labor Ready Northwest, Inc., the EEOC's investigation found that male workers at a West Virginia Construction Site racially and sexually harassed two female laborers and threw roofing tiles at them when they objected.  A coworker told one of the woman, "It's a shame you're Black.  What a waste."  When the women reported the harassment, they were first ignored and then fired.

While these are examples of harassment on job sites, we also received complaints about employers refusing to even consider women for jobs or hiring, using hiring practices that unlawfully disadvantage people of color.  As these examples and so many like them illustrate, we've reached a critical moment for workplace civil rights in construction, and change is long overdue.  Fortunately, the historic need for hiring in the industry now provides an opportunity to build a more inclusive industry.

The EEOC looks forward to working with civil rights and workers' rights organization unions and contractors to ensure quality jobs are open to all qualified workers and that all workers are treated with respect once hired.  To that end, today's witnesses bring important perspectives.  I look forward to their testimony.  We will have five minutes of opening statements from the Commissioners followed by a round of questioning, two rounds of questions for this panel.  And I would also note that as presiding officer, I am responsible for the conduct of the hearing.  With that, I will turn it now to the vice chair for an opening statement.

VICE CHAIR SAMUELS:  Oh, thank you so much, Chair Burrows, and thank you for those powerful and sobering remarks.  I am so privileged to be here today with my colleagues at the Commission and our distinguished witnesses to discuss this critical topic of equal employment opportunity in the construction industry.  The hearing is particularly timely given that the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act of 2021 stands to create hundreds of thousands of new jobs in the construction industry.

In addition, as the chair said, the tragic and heartbreaking events in Buffalo just a few days ago are a painful reminder, if we ever needed one, that racial discrimination in our society is not only present but proliferating with devastating consequences.  Our hearts go out to the victims.

A happier coincidence, today is the 68th anniversary of the Brown v. Board of Education decision which promised to open the doors of opportunity to millions of Black school children who had previously been restricted to segregated schools.  Unfortunately, though, and as events in Buffalo show all too clearly, we still have lots of work to do to eradicate discrimination from our workplaces and elsewhere including in the construction industry indeed, historically, the construction industry has been rife with race, national origin, and sex discrimination including harassment that has limited opportunities for women and people of color, among others.

Sadly, this isn't just a problem of the past.  Even today discrimination remains far too pervasive across the country.  For example, the Washington Post reported in July of 2021 that since 2015, at least 55 nooses were reported at 40 different construction sites in the U.S. and Canada.

A study published by the National Institute of Building Sciences, also in July of 2021, found that out of nearly 12,000 survey respondents from the building and construction industry, 72 percent of those who identified as Black or African American and 66 percent of women, regardless of race, reported that they had experienced discrimination at work.

In addition to facing overt discrimination of harassment, women and racial and ethnic minorities continue to be starkly underrepresented in construction jobs.  For example, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, non-Hispanic Black workers held 5.1 percent of construction jobs in 2020 despite representing 11.8 percent of employees nationwide.  Women held about 11 percent of construction jobs in 2020 despite representing nearly 50 percent of the workforce, which brings me to the reason we're here today.

It is our fundamental mission to prevent and remedy unlawful employment discrimination and to advance equal opportunity for all.  I  know that this is a goal that all of our witnesses share, but the effectiveness of our joint efforts to achieve these goals depends, to a great extent, on our understanding of existing problems and our ability to identify solutions to those problems that will result in effective removal of the barriers that continue to exist.

Today's hearing will help us to understand the challenges faced by workers and to identify promising practices to address and prevent discrimination and promote diversity, equity, and inclusion in the construction industry.  It will help us to effectively implement our outreach and education efforts, focus our investigations, and identify where litigation may be necessary.

In summary, I am looking forward to today's dialogue to give us vital information about the construction industry and to put that information to work through marshaling our resources in ways that lead to tangible and positive change.  This is our moment to maximize the opportunities created by the infrastructure bill, to address the racism that persists across our country, and to honor the legacy of Brown.  I look forward to working with my colleagues, our witnesses, and our stakeholders to realize those critical goals.  Thank you.

CHAIR BURROWS:  And now to Commissioner Dhillon.

COMMISSIONER DHILLON:  Thank you.  I want to start by extending my sympathies, thoughts and prayers to the families and friends of the victims in the horrific events in Buffalo.  The strength and grace that those survivors are demonstrating in such horrible circumstances is truly an inspiration to us all.  I also want to salute the courage of the local police department.  Law enforcement responded swiftly and by all accounts, effectively potentially averting an even greater tragedy.

I want to add my thanks to our witnesses at today's hearing.  I appreciate your willingness to participate, and I also appreciate the written testimony that you submitted in advance of the hearing, which has been very helpful as I prepared.  I look forward to hearing your testimony and importantly, to a respectful and constructive conversation.

As grateful as I am to have this opportunity for this hearing, I must admit being a bit disappointed that we are unable to meet in person.  As Americans across the country are returning to the workforce, it is my hope that future hearings of the EEOC can be conducted in person.

The workers in the construction industry are the focus of our hearing today.  This is an industry that is critical to our country's economy, and the workers in the construction industry are critical to their success.  Workers in the construction industry build our buildings, our airports, our shopping centers, our factories, schools, dams, roads and bridges, ports, public transport, multifamily housing projects, and the list goes on.  For the prosperity of any nation, a healthy construction industry is vital.  At the heart of this industry is its workers, and we need to meet those workers where they are.

Most people in the construction industry work for a small business.  Low barriers to entry to establish a construction business allow entrepreneurs the opportunity to start a business and most of those will be small businesses.  Indeed, 82 percent of all construction firms in our country today have less than 10 employees, and more than 80 percent of construction workers are employed by a small business.  This demonstrates, once again, that small businesses truly are the backbone of our country and our economy.

While it's important that government use appropriate mechanisms to ensure that these employees, and indeed all employees, work in an environment that is free from discrimination and harassment, it's also likewise important that the government exercise appropriate oversight and to not unintentionally or inadvertently cause harm.  As we know, most small businesses don't have the resources to hire a large human resources department or employ in-house employment lawyers.  They may not have law firms on speed dial to answer employment law issues as they arise.  I believe that the EEOC's priority with all businesses, but especially small businesses, is to provide compliance assistance so that these organizations, these employers have the tools necessary to comply with the laws that we enforce.

The impact of government action on the construction industry can't be viewed in a vacuum.  This industry is reeling from the effects of inflation and other macroeconomic forces.  For example, prices of construction materials used in new residential construction jumped more than 21 percent between February 2021 and February 2022, and data collected since then suggests that these cost pressures are going to continue to pressure small business.  These inflationary pressures are being manifested in prices for critical components for this industry such as lumber, metals, fuel, and trucking.

For example, the average price for retail gasoline increased by more than $1.00 a gallon last year and just this month reached a record high.  Experts aren't expecting these costs to come down soon.  Similarly, the nationwide average cost for a gallon of diesel fuel, a critical component to this industry, hit a new record this month at a staggering $5.32 a gallon marking a $2.20 increase over 2021.  The impact of the disruptions to our supply chain are also having an impact on this industry.  Timely deliveries of materials are an issue exacerbated by tariffs that are restricting supplies and raising prices.  The shortages of and increased prices of manufactured steel, steel and plastic piping, paint, and concrete materials, to name a few, are hitting this industry.  Some costs --

CHAIR BURROWS:  Thank you, Commissioner.  And we have -- you're a little over time.  If you could conclude --


CHAIR BURROWS:  -- that would be great.

COMMISSIONER DHILLON:  I look forward to hearing more about the challenges facing the construction industry and its workers today and how the EEOC can constructively work with them to strengthen this vital section of our Nation's workforce and economy.

CHAIR BURROWS:  Thank you.  And now to Commissioner Sonderling.

(Audio interference.)

PARTICIPANT:  Pardon me, Commissioner Sonderling.  Please begin again.

COMMISSIONER SONDERLING:  Sure.  Thank you and like my fellow Commissioners, I also mourn with those who lost their lives in the horrific shootings in Buffalo and California over the weekend.  And although not the focus of today's hearing, it is important that we recognize and never forget the innocent loss of life that was based on race and national origin, among other things.

I would like to thank all the witnesses testifying at today's hearing.  I have carefully reviewed the written testimony, and I appreciate each of you taking the time to share your wealth of knowledge and experience on these important issues.  Equally important, the Commission owes a great deal of gratitude to all of you in the public who are taking the time to watch this hearing.  Today we meet to discuss the challenges and successes of the construction industry and equal employment opportunity.

Unlike other industries, the construction industry did not have the luxury of working remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic having to work through extremely challenging times to ensure that everything from infrastructure to our homes was built on time.

This construction industry is highly regulated.  From federal and local safety laws, this industry more than others is constantly under a regulatory microscope.  AS the former acting and Deputy Administrator of the U.S. Department of Labor's Wage and Hour Division, I am keenly aware of the complex federal regulations that the construction industry must navigate when it comes to ensuring proper wages and workplace conditions.  I have experienced it in both the educational side and the enforcement side of laws relating to the construction industry such as Davis Bacon and Executive Orders related to minimum wage, paid sick leave, and project labor agreements.

Aside from these wage laws, like many other workers throughout our Nation's workforce, the construction industry's commitment to equal employment opportunity laws must also be unwavering.  I believe it is vital for the Commission and all other federal agencies to prioritize actions to prevent discrimination from occurring in the first place so workers can excel in a respectful environment.

I hope this hearing will provide insightful testimony so the Commission can publish helpful guidance for the construction industry.  As we will hear today, I am pleased to see that there are numerous efforts from within the industry to address discrimination, harassment, and retaliation.  I must commend some in the industry who have already taken a proactive approach to compliance with antidiscrimination laws.  In recent years, construction companies and their trade groups have joined forces to foster a better workplace for construction workers.

For example, in 2020, after recognizing the need to influence change and cultivate a more inclusive construction industry, a consortium of six leading general contractors found it time for a change.  As part of its efforts, this group is sponsoring its second annual construction inclusion week later this year.  This industry-wide event encourages focused dialogue and action within the industry to help companies achieve and maintain safe and inclusive work environments free of harassment, hate, or bigotry of any kind.  Through this event, the group plans to build awareness of the need to improve diversity and inclusion in the construction industry by providing content and resources that participants in the construction industry may use in their efforts to promote equal employment opportunities for all.

Some construction companies are already demanding real-time changes.  For instance, in 2020, one of the largest contractors in the country shut down two large projects for anti-bias training as soon as the company found discrimination on the jobsite.  There are countless more examples, but a final one worth highlighting is the Construction Management Association of America.  To advance the construction as an industry of choice for diverse and talented workers by building inclusive work environments in construction firms nationwide, CMAA created "the culture of care pledge."  This pledge's initiative was created in partnership with the Associated General Contractors of America.  As part of this pledge, CMAA committed to four principles: commit to hire and pay based on skill and experience regardless of any protected characteristics; attract perspective employees by creating inclusive workplaces that are free from harassment, hazing and bullying; retain high-performing employees by identifying and removing barriers to advancement; and empower every employee to promote a culture of diversity and inclusion.  These are just a few examples of recent efforts demonstrating an increased commitment to equal employment opportunities for all within the industry.

In closing, I believe the EEOC can learn from this industry and others' best practices that are already working to prevent and remedy unlawful employment discrimination.  I am confident that construction companies and other groups in the industry will continue to take initiative to promote workplaces, including jobsites, free of discrimination, harassment, and retaliation.

I look forward to hearing the testimony of all of our witnesses on these important issues.  Thank you.

CHAIR BURROWS:  Thank you.  And now Commissioner Lucas.

COMMISSIONER LUCAS:  Thank you.  And thank you to the witnesses for being here with us today to study racism, national origin discrimination, ethnic discrimination in the construction industry.

Like my colleagues, I am mourning with those whose lives were shattered by this weekend's racist hate crime targeting a Black community grocery.  I stand along with many to declare, as eloquently put by Senator Tim Scott over the weekend, that the threads of racism left in the fabric of our country need to be cut out.  Violence, hate, and discrimination of any kind based on race, color, or national origin deserves no place in our country's future.

I also think it is important to acknowledge and mourn the victims of the second mass shooting which occurred over the weekend perpetrated by a Chinese-American shooter against a Chinese church community motivated by national origin animus.  That shooting demonstrates that no one has a monopoly on hate based on race, ethnicity, or national origin and reminds us that we must condemn such hate wherever it arises, regardless of by whom or against whom such hate is perpetrated.

With respect to the specific subject of today's hearing, in D.C. and across the country, we are surrounded by the work of the many talented and hardworking men and women of the construction industry.  The work they do shapes and literally provides the physical foundation and environments for much of our lives on a daily basis.  In the EEOC's immediate neighborhood, there are at least five major construction projects that are ongoing.  These projects will bring new residences, retail, business space, and even a new city park.

A job in the construction industry can provide meaningful employment and financial stability for many individuals, especially for those without traditional four-year college degrees.

The industry also acts as an incubator for a number of small businesses.  Many construction business owners started their careers in an entry level role on a jobsite.  These small construction businesses often create additional opportunities for the next generation of construction workers, tradesman, and others.

I have seen firsthand the economic freedom, stability, dignity, and pathway to prosperity that a job in the construction industry can provide.  My last remaining grandparent, my 93-year-old grandfather, is a first generation American born to Italian immigrants in this country.  His parents each separately came to this country as teenagers with only elementary school educations and speaking no English.  Indeed my grandfather, despite being born here, spoke no English when he started kindergarten.

But despite growing up in inner city Cleveland, my grandfather was very lucky to attend West Technical High School, a high school dedicated to preparing students for careers in the trades and skill labor.  It was the skills learned during his high school years without any need for college that formed the foundation of his approximately 40-year career as an electrician and member of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 38.

My grandfather's legacy at work can be found in the many buildings in downtown Cleveland.  Listening to him talk with pride about the projects he worked on gave me a deep appreciation for the work of those in the construction industry and skilled trades.

His career as an electrician in commercial construction provided him with a good-paying blue collar job, economic stability to raise his family, and deep sense of vocation and purpose.  This stays with him even today.  Despite him retiring 30 years ago, it's clear to me that once an electrician, always an electrician.

Of course and unfortunately, no industry is immune from issues of discrimination, including the construction industry.  Even where there are concentrated efforts to promote equal opportunity, one can find instances of discrimination, harassment, or even violence.  This is unacceptable and there is no place for this such conduct in a health workplace.

Over the past few years, there have been a number of reported instances of discrimination and harassment in the construction industry.   I look forward to hearing from the witnesses as we seek to understand the causes that underlie these issues.

That said, as we consider the issues raised in testimony, I do think that it's important to be cautious about painting an entire industry with a broad brush or worse, condemning an entire industry.  While there may be common threads among various issues, it's important to ensure that enforcement actions as an agency, consider each situation and company individually.

Finally, I feel compelled to mention that I believe that it's unfortunate that we're holding this hearing in a solely virtual context.  Over the past two years, while many white collar workers were able to work from their homes, workers in the construction industry continued to show up day after day, month after month in person.  That we are unable today, more than two years after the COVID-19 pandemic started, to have any component of this hearing (inaudible) is just deeply disappointed, and I worry about the message it sends to those workers.  I find it difficult to see how we can knock down walls if we ourselves remain walled off from the public.  Thank you.

CHAIR BURROWS:  Thank you.  And it's now my pleasure to introduce the speakers on our first panel in the order that they will be appearing today.  First, Dr. Trevor Griffey is a lecturer in U.S. History at the University of California Irvine.  He's the co-editor of a book on Black involvement in the construction industry, "Black Power at Work, Community Control, Affirmative Action in the Construction Industry."

Ken Simonson is the Chief Economist of the Associate General Contractors of America, a leading trade association for the construction industry, and he provides insight into the economy and its implications for construction and related industries.

Ariane Hegewisch is Senior Research Fellow at the Institute for Women's Policy Research.  She's currently directing IWPR's program on women's advancement and retention in construction and manufacturing and also leads its work on pay equity.

Janel Bailey is the Co-Executive Director of the Los Angeles Black Worker Center, and they have devoted their career to organizing workers to raise industry standards including in construction and previously serving as an organizing coordinator with the SEIU and a national trainer for the Non-profit Jobs with Justice.

Chris Winters is a Tribal AffairsLiaison for the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades, District Number 5.  He's a veteran and an enrolled member of the Muscogee Creek Nation and an adopted member of the Puyallup Tribe of Indians.

Welcome to each of you and thank you again for being here today.  As a reminder, you each have five minutes for your opening remarks.  Our IT team will be keeping track of time and will use the chat function to alert you when your time draws to a close.  Thank you.  And we will begin with Dr. Griffey.

DR. GRIFFEY:  All right.  Thank you.  Just a second as I pull up my document.  And thank you for having me.  Good morning. Thank you to the EEOC Commissioners for inviting me to provide a brief overview of the history of attempts to desegregate skilled construction trades as part of your hearing on fair employment in the construction industry.  This statement is a condensed version of one that my understanding was already circulated to you all last week.

In every year since the end of World War II, between 4 and 6 percent of all non-farm employees in the U.S. have worked in the construction industry.  In March of 2022, 7.5 million non‑supervisory employees in the construction industry earned an average wage of $32.00 an hour with wages even higher for skilled trades workers in construction.

Historically, the most lucrative jobs in the construction industry were restricted to white men until the 1970's through a combination of employer and union bias.  Informal hiring practices by construction contractors, like those in other industries, historically privileged access to jobs and apprenticeships for those with personal connections to the contractor.  A friend of mine in Seattle's electrical trades told me that some workers continue refer to this system as what they called, quote "FBI" the hiring of friends, brothers, and in‑laws. 

Labor unions representing skilled trades challenged some of these kinds of networks as cronyism, but in places where union power was especially strong, unions had their own forms of cronyism that provided privileged access to jobs for people with personal connections to labor leaders or to labor unions, a system made worse by the infiltration of some unions by organized crime.  In this way, both union and employer practices effectively prohibited non‑White and women workers from participating in apprenticeship programs or being dispatched from union hiring halls well into the 1960's.

The near‑total exclusion of Black workers from skilled construction trades contributed significantly to Black freedom movement demands for fair employment laws in all industries, not just the construction trades, from the 1940's through the 1960's.  But not even the passage of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act was sufficient to compel construction contractors and unions to desegregate in the mid-1960's because early on, enforcement of Title VII law relied on voluntary compliance and neither the contractors nor unions were very interested in voluntarily changing their system.

My book, Black Power at Work, tells this story of how racism in the construction industry inspired Black freedom movement activists to use direct action protests to shut down federally-funded construction sites throughout the 1960's.  It talks about how government officials responded to those protests by developing affirmative action policies meant to overcome industry resistance to fair employment law, and it describes how those policies became a model for imposing similar desegregation orders in other parts of the American economy.

Though the historian Thomas Sugrue previously wrote about this history, my book also highlights a key point that he downplayed; that social movement activism that drove the creation of fair employment laws was about imagining a new urban political economy.  Black freedom movement activists hoped that government investment in the redevelopment of neighborhoods would not displace poor and working class people of all race and ethnicities, as it had with federal highway construction, but would instead provide job training as a pathway for both individual and community empowerment.  These are the founding ideas for more contemporary things like we see today in project labor agreements such as local hire requirements that are intended to promote equal opportunity.

My book also demonstrates that there's more to desegregating an industry than simply being hired into it.  Workplace culture has to change.  The first non‑White workers hired into the construction industry, men and women, were not welcomed, and many were hazed off the job by hostile supervisors and coworkers.  I provide examples of this hazing in my written testimony, and oral histories I drew from for this testimony are available on the Seattle Civil Rights and Labor History Project website which I co-founded.

In a chapter for Black Power at Work which I'll submit for the record of today's hearing, I demonstrate that those in charge of enforcing the federal government's fair employment laws were generally aware of workplace culture problems in the construction industry the 1970's, but their ability to effectively respond was limited by the growing political backlash against affirmative action.

Though I don't want to downplay the importance of attempts to make trades more diverse since the 1970s, I do believe that the political polarization surrounding the enforcement of fair employment laws explains why attempts to desegregate the construction industry have had such limited results.  According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, last year 88 percent of all construction employees were White, and only 6 percent were Black, though I should note that 33 percent of construction employees were Hispanic or Latino, and -- but because most of them identify as White, that's why the 88 percent sort of statistic is there.

I see that I've already been told that I have -- I'm out of time.  I'd just like to finish by noting that as the federal government is substantially reinvesting in U.S. infrastructure projects, now is an important time to revisit the history of lessons -- revisit the lessons of history to ensure that government spending continues to provide equal opportunity for all workers.

My own personal view, based on my research about the failure of early affirmative action plans in the late 1960s and early 1970s is that the best way for agencies like the EEOC to enforce fair employment law is to partner with tradeswomen and Black worker organizations to help watchdog the enforcement of the law.  Thank you.

CHAIR BURROWS:  Thank you, Dr. Griffey.  And now a warm welcome to Mr. Simonson from the AGC.  Go ahead.

MR. SIMONSON:  Well, thank you.  It's an honor for me personally to be here.  My mother, Joy Simonson, was an early leader of the National Association Commissions of Women and she worked for decades on employment discrimination by gender and also race and ethnic origin.  AGC is also keenly interested in making sure that there is no place for discrimination in the construction industry.

As Commissioners have noted, we're at a time of potential very strong growth and demand for construction workers.  We're already in a situation where the industry has had a record number of job openings.  At the end of March, there were 415,000 positions that were open in construction.  That actually exceeded the 388,000 workers who were hired during the month of March, meaning the industry would have hired twice as many people as it was able to find who were qualified.  So at AGC and its 89 state and local chapters as well as many of our 27,000-member companies have been actively reaching out to historically underrepresented groups -- workers and potential workers.

One of the major problems facing construction is the pipeline through the school system has really dried up.  As you heard from Commissioner Lucas, there used to be schools devoted to teaching career trades.  We've seen those programs whither for decades and even now, the federal government is devoting five times as much money to supporting higher education as it is to career and technical education.  So we hope that the Commission will be able to call attention to the need to provide opportunity at the earliest stage for people to learn about the career possibilities and the strong advancement possibilities in construction.

To help achieve greater advancement, AGC has partnered with Procore, a leading construction software provider, to raise money for scholarships.  And we were happy to announce at our convention in March that we reached the initial target of $500,000.00, which has already been dedicated to students who will be attending HBCUs, Historically Black Colleges and Universities, to learn the skills to become construction managers and senior executives, because to make construction truly inclusive, we need to have not just an end to discrimination and harassment at the entry level and in the trades but to make sure that there is an entire culture of care, as Commissioner Sonderling described, and as AGC has been leading in signing up companies and chapters, making the whole industry more aware of the necessity to emphasize diversity and inclusion at all stages of the construction industry.  And we are pleased that already 35 associations, both within the AGC network and the Construction Management Association of America, and over 700 companies have signed this pledge to participate in a culture of care and to make sure that diversity, equity, and inclusion are practiced throughout the entire industry and the companies.

Now it's true that a very small percentage of workers in the industry are women, that Blacks are underrepresented, but we have as seen those percentages move up in small increments in the last few years.  And I think that that's especially noteworthy at a time when women in particular have been forced out of the job market by the circumstances of COVID.  The construction jobs have to be performed onsite at fixed hours with very limited opportunity to leave suddenly if you have to pick up a child who's suddenly told that the school is closing or the day care is not available that day.  These are burdens that fall on women more heavily throughout the work market and certainly have made it more difficult for women to participate in construction trade jobs.  And yet the percentage of women in construction employment has risen significantly over the past two years.  We will be keeping an eye on making sure that those advances don't get rolled back.  But at a time when the construction unemployment rate has fallen to the lowest ever for people, 4.6 percent, the industry is scrambling to find workers of any origin, of both genders, and to make sure that once in the industry, they choose to stay there.

So I will be glad to take your questions afterwards but again, thank you for the opportunity for this opening statement.

CHAIR BURROWS:  Thank you.  And now to Ms. Hegewisch.

MS. HEGEWISCH:  Thank you so much to Chair Burrows and Vice Chair Samuels and Members of the Commission for the opportunity to participate in today's hearing.  So my name is Ariane Hegewisch from the Institute for Women's Policy Research where I lead our research on women in construction.  And this includes the largest national survey ever conducted of women working on the tools in construction which was finished last year.

The COVID-19 "she-cession" has put a spotlight on the concentration of Black and Brown women in low wage jobs.  Unlike the jobs that will be supported by public infrastructure investments into construction, these jobs do not provide economic security let alone allow families to weather dramatic economic downturns, as we experienced during the current COVID crisis.  Gender differences in the distribution of women and men across occupations and industries account for over half of the gender wage gap and contributes substantially to race and ethnic earnings inequality.

Work in construction can provide good earnings with benefits.  At more than 300,000 in 2021, the number of women working in the trades, including apprenticeships, was at its highest level ever.  The construction industry, when you include office and managerial staff, is one of the few industries where there are now more women on payroll than were there pre-COVID, and that's not -- the same's not true for men.  Yet in 2021, women were just 3.9 percent of workers in construction trades and just 11 percent of all workers in the industry.

So, why are so few women in the trades?  First, finding out about opportunity in the trades is haphazard.  Just 6 percent of respondents to our survey said that they had been told about opportunities in the industry by their high school counselors.  Second, far too many face hostile work environments.  Between a fifth and a quarter of respondents to our survey report that they always or frequently face sexual harassment or racial harassment, are harassed just for being a woman, or for their sexual orientation.  Similar numbers report disparaging graffiti.  Third, far too many women face discrimination in key aspects of employment including in hiring and layoffs, access to overtime, training, and promotion.  The experience of harassment and discrimination was severe enough for more than 1 in 10 of respondents to our survey to make an official complaint to the EEOC or to seek advice from a lawyer.

Worse, three times this many said they took no action when they faced harassment or discrimination because they were afraid of jeopardizing their jobs and future hiring opportunities.  Not surprisingly, almost one in two trades women report that they have seriously considered leaving their trades altogether.  For a 30-year-old woman pushed out of her union trade apprenticeship and instead taking a job as a non-union bus driver, the lifetime earning losses amount to $1.3 million dollars.

Unlike what contractors often tell us, the most common reason for wanting to leave is not childcare or other care issues, but discrimination and lack of respect.

The infrastructure and investment and jobs act of 2021 authorizes expenditure of $1.2 trillion of new funds with the expectation that the investment will create good-paying union jobs.  This historic level of investment provides a once in a lifetime opportunity and obligation to tackle the practices that keep women from entering and thriving in the trades.

It's no mystery how to achieve respectful workplaces in the construction trades.  Our survey shows that it is perfectly possible to do so.  Our written testimony provides examples of how.  Successful policies include setting, publishing, and monitoring ambitious goals for the hours worked by women, by race and ethnicity, and to provide technical assistance and oversight to contractors to meet and exceed those goals while holding them accountable for performance.

The EEOC can play a role in increasing public accountability and highlight differences between leaders and laggers in the industry and to develop tailor-made complaints mechanisms for the construction industry that do not leave individual women and workers facing discrimination at risk of retaliation.  What is needed are intentionality and oversight to ensure that women, particularly women of color, are no longer excluded or forced to work in unacceptable conditions in an industry receiving large amounts of public dollars.  Thank you.

CHAIR BURROWS:  Thank you.  And now a warm welcome to Ms. Bailey.  Go ahead.

MS. BAILEY:  Good morning.  My name is Janel.  I'm one of two Co-Executive Directors at the LA Black Worker Center.  At the Los Angeles Black Worker Center, we envision a world where Black workers thrive in an equitable economy that builds and sustains vibrant families and communities.  Our organization was founded over a decade ago in response to the Black jobs crisis that stands between our vision and Black workers' reality today.

Black workers come together at our center to organize to improve access to quality jobs, reduce employment discrimination, and improve the industries that employ us.  At the time the crisis manifested more than half of Black workers with degrees were either unemployed or under employed.  In the last couple of years, it's shown up as nearly 84 percent of Black workers seeking access to unemployment since the shutdowns in 2020.  A more recent survey by UCLA found that the Black -- of the Black workers who experienced job loss with the shutdowns, 70 percent are still searching for work.

Like many aspects of our economy, the Black job crisis didn't just fall from the sky.  It's the result of deliberate policy choices, policy choices that devalue Black people and our contributions.  When I say "policies," I'm talking about, for example, slavery, Jim Crow laws, and Black codes, laws that said that Black people did not have the right to assemble, to marry, to bear arms, to vote, to own property, to cross state lines without a sponsor, or to even be outside, known as loitering laws; right?  So I name these just to say that drafting and passing these laws were deliberate choices to exclude Black workers from our formal economy in the U.S.

The good news wrapped up in this, however, is that just like choices can be made to shape anti-Black policy, we can also make choices to shape policy that is pro-Black, that uplifts and includes Black workers.  We can collectively choose to walk away from that legacy and heal California's economy, heal our U.S. economy.

Our workforce development system is currently faced with the challenge of creating pathways that connect Black workers to good jobs, and one of the main challenges is the exclusivity of one of the most tried and true pathways, and that is the apprenticeship.  There is great power in workers' ability to come together and codify standards, to hold employers accountable and control the labor market.  However, applying those tools without the explicit values of inclusion has created a very narrow path that keeps those opportunities exclusive and it tends to block out workers who are not specifically White men with specifically able bodies.

So people came together at the Black Worker Center to run the "Equity, Transparency and Accountability" campaign to move the LA Metro to hire Black workers to build the train that ran down Crenshaw through the Black neighborhoods in LA.  Black workers and allies won an agreement from Metro to commit to hiring Black workers and the subsequent "Do You See Me Now" campaign was meant to connect Metro and their subcontractors with Black workers that they said they couldn't find.  And that sentiment was likely in earnest given the legacy of exclusion.  It is probably unlikely that anyone hiring for construction jobs would have meaningful relationships with Black workers.  That campaign increased the percentage of Black workers on that project from 2 percent to 19 percent.

In the time since, Black workers have continued to endure harassment and exclusion on the job.  One worker who is a part of our center, graduated from our workforce development program and went to work with the painters a couple years ago. He has endured persistent harassment in his job, teasing, name-calling, intimidation.  He is often the lone Black worker on his assignments, so he has to seek support elsewhere.  It's caused a lot of anxiety and depression for which he's seeking medical support, but he fears retaliation if he brings up the issues at work because he's already observed that his supervisor and his union business agents are unsupportive.  They perpetuate the culture of exclusion when they fail to hold other workers accountable to their leadership's stated value of equity and inclusion.

Another worker was confronted with a noose at his jobsite.  This noose was presumably presented in the tradition of racialized terror in the U.S. that includes lynching Black men.  The noose was tied where he would discover it with his name clearly written with the messages to "be scared" and "no more time for you."  He's since transferred sites.  One of his strongest recommendations was for there to be more training available for his colleagues who often shared insensitive messages on the intercom.

These incidents are not few or far between for Black workers, and so some strategic enforcement priorities from the EEOC must include engagement with marginalized workers' organizations such as Worker Centers to build workers' capacity to collaborate with EEOC to process claims, providing tools and partnerships to construction site management to support them in shifting their cultures with incumbent workers to create a most hospitable environment for the current and prospective coworkers who have been traditionally marginalized, and also a plan with specific measurable benchmarks to demonstrate accountability to employers who foster -- accountability for employers who foster unwelcoming environments for marginalized workers.  And that plan should acknowledge that workers of color do not experience marginalization similarly.

Black and indigenous workers may be represented or clustered differently than their Latinx counterparts and workers of marginalized agendas do not necessarily share the same experiences either.  Thank you.

CHAIR BURROWS:  Thank you.  I appreciate it.  And now we will go to Mr. Winters.

MR. WINTERS:  Thank you very much.  My name is Christopher Winters.  I am an enrolled member of the Muscogee Creek Nation and an adopted member of the Puyallup Tribe of Indians here in Washington State.  Thank you, Chair Burrows, Commissioners, fellow panelists and the community.  As a minority combat-disabled veteran labor leader, it's not only my obligation to share the roadblocks that I or we have experienced, it's an honor to clear that pathway for the other future prosperities to engage and to be heard.

I want to echo the sentiments of my sister who came before me, Janel, and how there is a lot of work that needs to be done in clearing the pathway for all people of all colors from all nations.

One of the comments that was made on the pathways to prosperity earlier in this conversation by one of our Commissioners cannot be more stated.  The access to apprenticeship and state and federally-recognized apprenticeship programs removing any of these biases allows people from all nations to actually be engaged early in the process.  I know that earlier the comments were made about the underserved communities not being provided some of the same creature comforts and funding for those to be engaged earlier in the educational process.  Myself, growing up on a reservation in Oklahoma, which the entire state is Indian country, the same that could be afforded to non-Native schools or to schools that were based in rural areas were not allowed or afforded in our communities.  We had to actually do much like myself and actually enlist in the United States military and actually travel around the world and come back and still be faced with some of the same biases.

But that access to apprenticeship allowed me to have, much like many tribes and tribal members, an access to a living wage career to live with dignity and to work with people from all nations to achieve those same efforts and to achieve those same goals.

Many tribes in particular that, you know, are located throughout the Southwest and the Southeastern part of the United States, specifically around California, don't have access to even some of the basic needs to live with that dignity that we are discussing.  Some of them don't have running water, electricity, the roads aren't paved, and as recent when you're actually hearing some of the news about, you know, the restriction to voting and to actually taking part in the changing of those policies, they were being removed so that people who had no transportation or no access to even get to those voting poll stations, those are some of the real barriers that we have addressed so that we just have the basic need and the basic ability to live like the rest of the community.

And some of those fortunately, the men and women who live in those communities themselves, we were more able and they are more able to adapt to those -- the needs of the employers and the industries given our survival in historically unsupported living conditions, those trauma-informed programming that has been hoisted historically upon our families.  But by entering some of the skilled trades apprenticeship programs as tribal citizens, we were able to follow those pathways to prosperity so that other career pathways and living wages that we could achieve could be supported by not just ourselves, but we could pass those on to our families through those programs for many years.

You know, from the IPAT, we've provided a lot of that support and information to our -- you know, with partnership with our perspective employers and our current partners to tell a number of our underserved communities about the benefit of recruiting workers from the underserved communities and to strengthen those voices within our own union, within our communities.  We provide prospective workers with information about our programs.  A great shout out to our "Women Build Nations," one of my most recent successes that I'm really proud of.  Ms. Cynthia Grant, who came from an underrepresented community, worked just as hard as everybody on the jobsite that she did, every time I saw her was being restricted her access to those -- that same voice at work.  It was great to see her cross the stage as an apprentice, as a journeyman, an instructor, and then when the opportunity to become a field representative, she took it.  She ran with it and she's not the leader of our Women Build Nations caucus and our Jobsite Empowerment Sister.

So the post apprenticeship opportunities that exist for a lot of our men and women and our underserved communities, we take those opportunities and then started standing up constituency groups.  Throughout, we have -- fortunately, under our new President, Jimmy Williams, we've been routing some of those and having our constituency groups stood up across the United States.

And at our most recent convention for leadership in August, President Williams spoke of the power of just the vision of seeing the people in the crowd.  And he stood and he asked people of color to stand, and we looked around the room and we counted how few people were standing.  And he went down the line for all of our different ethnic groups that were underrepresented and underserved, and he said, "This will change on my watch.  Actions, not words."

I've seen in our union a lot of changes taking place.  During my 30 years as a skilled trades person, I've seen and been exposed to many of those different types of barriers and harassments.  It was great to see a new leader that's stepping up to take these actions and actually take those words and put them into actions and to derail those counterproductive policies and attitudes in the construction industry and actually not give hate and not give that discrimination a voice.

And some of the policies that I've seen that have helped change and reshape this is to remove those counterproductive policies, don't allow drivers relicensing that remove some of the restrictive application requirements to deter people from applying because they don't quite understand the steps needed to apply, have somebody mentor them through that process.  And then some of the restrictive recruitment to access to jobs where the underserved communities are being excluded from consideration because of the lack of that transportation and inclusion.

CHAIR BURROWS:  Thank you.

MR. WINTERS:  Some of the --

CHAIR BURROWS:  Mr. Winters, I'm going to -- maybe we can return to that.  I want to ask you about that, but we're a little over.  But if you want to conclude and then we'll -- it's great to see you again, by the way.  I was so pleased that you were able to make it.

PARTICIPANT:  Thank you.  In conclusion, it takes all of us to actually, to make that choice to make a change.  We don't have to live in our historical biases, we can create those new future ideals for our men and women.

CHAIR BURROWS:  Thank you so much.  And with that I think that we can proceed with our first round of questions from members of the Commission to the panelists, and each commissioner will have five minutes for the first round.  So we can begin with the Vice Chair.

VICE CHAIR SAMUELS:  Thank you so much Chair Burrows, and thank you to all our witnesses for this extremely insightful testimony.  It's such a rich resource for us to understand what is going on in the construction industry, the challenges that workers face, and the ways in which we can create practices that will promote rather than prevent equality of employment opportunity, thank you for your work and for your testimony.  In that connection, I think I'd start with Ms. Bailey, the increase in Black representation on the L.A. metro project is truly remarkable, from 2 percent to 19 percent.  Tell us a little more about the steps that your organization took, that contractors took, and how we could scale that up so that it could be replicated in other kinds of projects around the country.

MS. BAILEY:  That's a great question.  So that was a community organizing campaign that was led by Black workers who live in that area, and so they knew that there was a billion dollar project coming through their area to build a train that would go straight up Crenshaw, so this is coming through, you know, the South L.A. area, and those workers came together, designed the campaign, you know, at the center, but it also took partnering with allies, so other community organizations in the area, and friendly folks who, you know, are closer to the city.  And so through a series of organizing the actions of the campaign, they came to the table with Metro, again, as a community, you know, seeing collectively that there was a problem that needed to be solved.

And that agreement, I think was really important because that is a written a document that the Metro, you know, agreed to be accountable to.  The other thing that's important is following, you know, community agreements, is the implementation, so really, just running through the finish line.  And so that took, again, you know, a collaboration of folks from community to have what we call the Community Compliance Monitoring Project, and so that also had support from the county where folks really got together at 5:00 a.m. with binoculars, and were out looking, literally monitoring.

And, you know, I name that just to, you know, not -- I don't want to overshadow, you know, there was no part too small in that, right?  And so this, like I said, was truly an effort born of community and, you know, coming together with allies.  Black workers lead the way in solving, you know, identifying and solving their own issues, but it's done in community with, you know, others who will also benefit from that.  That monitoring project was what took them over the finish line, and also the Ready to Work project, Ready to Work is a workforce development program that is run through our organization but it really is a program to accompany workers who are looking for work.  And so that means that workers come together, particularly Black workers, to share political education which is in part, frankly, an inoculation for the racist environment that they are about to enter, and giving more context to their experience so it's not just individual joblessness, but the context of a Black jobs crisis.  And there could be support also for employers who are ready to make a more hospitable environment for Black workers.

But those are some key, you know, pieces, like I said, and that workforce readiness train that also includes some, you know, skills training and it's a collaboration with the union.  The union was huge and come to be a part of that program and prepare workers, so, like I said, just really want to underscore, this was a collective, community effort.

VICE CHAIR SAMUELS:  Well thank you so much for that, I guess I'd ask a similar question to Mr. Simonson.  And one of the benefits of these convenings I hope is that all of you can talk to each other.  Mr. Simonson, I salute the Care Pledge that your members are adopting, can you tell us a little bit about actions that contractors have taken to implement the pillars of that pledge?

MR. SIMONSON:  Sure.  We have contractors who are working both, through their chapters and directly with local schools, school administration, and community colleges, workforce development agencies, to make sure the message is getting out that construction pays well, does not have a high barrier to entry in terms of requiring credentialing off the bat, and has a terrific career path that has led to so many businesses that are now run by, or started by, people who started at the entry level, as you yourself had pointed out in your opening remark.

So we think that this is a way that is going to provide a lot more entry into the construction industry by women, by people of color, and indeed the figures are starting to show that kind of increase.  We think, however, that the federal government should not be mandating project labor agreements or local hire agreements, these in fact restrict the pathways in which firms can reach out and bring more people into the industry (inaudible) --

(Simultaneous speaking.)

VICE CHAIR SAMUELS:  Thank you.  Mr. Simonson, I'm so sorry to cut you off.  We all, and I know I can speak on behalf of my colleagues, have many, many more questions and want to hear much more from you than sadly we have time for today.  I'm out of time and I would just say, I will look forward to rejoining with additional questions in the second round, but thank you for that information.

CHAIR BURROWS:  Thank you, and we will come back for another round of questions.  Let's go to Commissioner Dhillon.

COMMISSIONER DHILLON:  Thank you.  Mr. Simonson, you know, I echo my colleague's comments that, you know, we don't feel like we have enough time but I want to give you an opportunity to finish your thought about the Project Labor Agreements.

MR. SIMONSON:  Okay, I appreciate that.  Yes, we know that federal agencies were encouraged to engage in Project Labor Agreements, but not mandated under the Obama Administration.  And we found that 99 percent of the cases in which Defense Department contracts had the potential of Project Labor Agreements, they rejected them.  They recognized that this is an excessively rigid approach to getting the highest quality and the best value for the tax payers' money in getting the workforce that is needed to produce projects on time, and I think that situation is even more true now when we have record low unemployment in construction, and close to record low throughout the economy.  Construction firms are going to be making every effort to find workers, and to be restricted to getting them through apprenticeship programs that may be union-only, or to look only within a limited geographic area that excludes someone who lives a block beyond the boundaries, these are not ways to increase the inclusiveness of the industry and open the doors to more people to consider construction.

COMMISSIONER DHILLON:  Thank you.  That was very enlightening, I appreciate that.  Your organization, the Associated General Contractors of America, has identified promoting the construction industry's proactive diversity efforts and addressing impediments to retaining and hiring workers as one of your top priorities for 2021 and 2022.  In what ways could the EEOC be helpful to these efforts and are there any potential pitfalls that the EEOC ought to look out for to make sure that we're not impeding these types of efforts?

MR. SIMONSON:  Yeah, I think the EEOC has a great opportunity to publicize the steps that not just AGC but other participants in the industry are taking to open the doors wider and encourage people to come in, it's certainly appropriate to call out cases of harassment and discrimination, these outrageous examples that no responsible employer or association supports.  So we are glad to be publicizing that with you but we think that going to mandates and restrictions is the wrong approach.  We also hope that the EEOC would make sure that the industry is adequately supported in creating new training and educational opportunities.  As I've said, the federal government has shown quite a bias toward pushing people toward college rather than toward career and technical education, when the bulk of the population would benefit more from that than from incurring huge student debt that they may or may not be able to pay off later.

COMMISSIONER DHILLON:  Thank you.  You also have noted that the participation rate of women in the construction industry, including Black women, has seen some slight but sustained increases over the last several years.  What do you think is driving these increases and what could the EEOC do to help sustain this momentum?

MR:  SIMONSON:  Well the industry has been looking for ways to make even field work more possible for women who may not have the height, the lifting ability, or other physical characteristics that enable them to do some jobs that historically may only have had male workers.  So we have examples of companies trying to design so called exoskeletons that increase a person's lifting power without straining their backs or their musculoskeletal system.  We have received a grant through an industry supplier for construction of safety harnesses that fit a wider variety of body types, and helmet design and other safety devices are making it possible for women to more comfortably, or safely, engage in field work.

So these are all things that we think that the federal government, including the EEOC, can look for ways of supporting research, development, and dissemination of products and systems.  We've also been highlighting through annual awards for diversity and inclusion to a variety of construction companies that are making significant efforts for outreach to women and to minorities.

COMMISSIONER DHILLON:  Thank you very much, it was very helpful and very informative.

CHAIR BURROWS:  Thank you, and now we'll go to Commissioner Sonderling.

COMMISSIONER SONDERLING:  Thank you Chair Burrows, and thank you again for all those very helpful opening statements by the witnesses.  You know, I did -- I think I was cut off earlier, or at least my microphone was off -- but I also did want to echo the concerns of my other commissioners that, we're not all together in person, like I said in my opening statement, the construction industry didn't have the luxury of working on Zoom and I would have liked to see you all in person, to have done this in person.  So I do want to talk more about Project Labor Agreements because I think we just jumped into it without an understanding of what the situation here is, and I'll start again with Mr. Simonson, your written testimony notes the negative effects that the government mandated Project Labor Agreements have on the construction industry and its employees, particularly entry-level employees who, as you note, are more likely in recent years to be from historically underrepresented populations.

On Friday, February 4, 2022, President Biden signed an Executive Order 14063 requiring Project Labor Agreements for all federal construction projects costing more than $35,000,000, this took where the Obama Administration's executive order which was more optional for projects $25,000,000 and above.  So what are these?  Project Labor Agreements are agreements between contractors and one or more labor organizations that establish the terms and conditions of employment, such as wage rates and benefits for specific construction projects.  Because of their project base, hence Project Labor Agreements, the terms of the PLAs generally supersede any provisions of an existing, but more geographically collective bargaining agreement.

So this is an issue that has ping-ponged back and forth between administrations, going back to George H. W. Bush, and George W. Bush, and President Obama.  So my question to you is, given President Biden recently mandated the PLAs, can you explain what effect you think this order will have on the employment opportunities in construction generally, as well as respective to the historically underrepresented populations you mentioned in your written testimony?

MR. SIMONSON:  Yes, thank you.  We just completed a survey that approximately 300 of our member companies answered, who had experience with Project Labor Agreements, and they were very strongly opposed to government mandated PLAs.  Many of them do engage in PLAs on a voluntary basis when they find it's a helpful way to assure workforce, but there are many projects in which there is no representation for the workforce that a company can easily turn to to engage in a PLA, or that the mandate to work with a union force doesn't represent a significant part of the available workforce.

And so, to bind a company to using a PLA in order to perform a federal job, many of these companies say they would no longer be interested in bidding on federal work.  And I think this is a way of discouraging and limiting the market for construction and for getting value to the tax payer on federal projects, and also limiting the opportunities to bring workers into the industry.  We are engaging now, one of our companies is working with a local member of the Building Trades Unions in order to develop a workforce pipeline, and we have many chapters that work exclusively with unions, but other chapters, it's mixed, and some other chapters there's really no union to engage with.  So to have a blanket requirement for PLAs is going to shrink the market, not increase it, and thereby shrink the opportunities for historically underrepresented workers to get into the industry.

COMMISSIONER SONDERLING:  And, you know, I mentioned early, and the history of this during the Trump Administration, still riding under the Obama Administration executive order where it was more optional versus the actual mandate, from a historical perspective, the mandate versus the optionality, what did you see before when it was more an optional thing?

MR. SIMONSON:  We found that over 99 percent of the opportunities that the Corps of Engineers and other Defense Department agencies had to engage in PLAs, they declined because they thought that a PLA was not going to deliver the choice of contractors and project completion dates that they needed.  So we think that this is really, a step backwards to start imposing requirements, even broader than those under the Obama Administration.

COMMISSIONER SONDERLING:  Thank you very much, I'm out of time.

CHAIR BURROWS:  Thank you.  Commissioner Lucas.

COMMISSIONER LUCAS:  Thank you, and thank you to all of the witnesses for your helpful opening statements, I appreciate very much.  Mr. Simonson, I wanted to hear a little bit more about AGC's efforts to expand access in technical training in order to help educate high schoolers and others about the prospects of entering the construction industry without the need for a college degree.  You mentioned a little bit in your written testimony that you and your members have efforts to do that, could you just tell us a little bit more about that?  Obviously technical training is near and dear to my heart, given my grandfather's experience.

MR. SIMONSON:  Sure.  A few years ago I had the opportunity to visit a high school program in Portland, Oregon, that was actually in the carpenter's training hall, so students were coming from three different high schools to this facility, they were taking classes, and then they were actually working inside the hall to learn the skills that would enable them to get full time jobs in construction, if they decided that was the course they wanted to follow.  And we had companies that were sending in their own employees to do some of the training and teaching in the classrooms, and they were also providing on-site job opportunities for students who were old enough and met the qualifications.  So this was a direct pipeline from high school into constructions careers.

We have many examples of state universities and community colleges that have construction management programs, these are colleges and universities that historically serve underrepresented populations more than some of the big state universities and private colleges.  And these construction management programs are regularly -- the job opportunities come in multiples for all of the graduates of those programs, so we think that the industry is really focused on getting people to know about the opportunities in construction, to provide them the skills to come in at an entry level in the field or move right into construction management and office careers.

COMMISSIONER LUCAS:  Do you ever work directly with state or local governments, or even the federal government, to encourage the development and funding of more vocational and trades training programs at the high school level?

MR. SIMONSON:  Absolutely, this has been a focus at the federal level of AGC for years, AGC of America, as I mentioned we have 89 chapters that represent construction firms in every state, generally in the state capitol, and many of them are working with governors, with the executive branch agencies, and many of them also with local workforce development agencies, as well as school districts.  And we've had many examples of different ways in which those agencies and companies, and local associations, whether it's job fairs, a van truck that is rigged out to show people at a school or elsewhere exactly what it means to work in construction, and to have workers from the companies going into schools to demonstrate the ways they started in construction and the skills needed today to go into the careers.

COMMISSIONER LUCAS:  In terms of sort of structural barriers, are you familiar with the history of what led to the decline of trade education in the United States?  I'm not sure if that's too far out of your wheelhouse but I am interested in ways that we sort of -- structural barriers have occurred that result in shifting people away from these opportunities they previously had.

MR. SIMONSON:  Well its certainly been true for years that getting a college degree generally meant a higher starting pay and much higher income over a lifetime, so that in turn led many school systems, guidance counselors, parents to say, oh, don't consider anything other than a college track education.  And unfortunately that's not the right path for every student as we see that an unfortunately low percentage of students who enter college graduate with a degree in six (6) years, and these days a college degree doesn't necessarily mean you're going to get a higher paid job.  Whereas construction, the median pay for a so called hourly -- production and non-supervised (unintelligible) employees has been 20 to 22 percent higher than for such employees across the whole spectrum, and since the pandemic that premium has dropped to 17 percent as other industries have increased starting pay for jobs that don't require a college degree.

But I think the pendulum is starting to swing back of greater awareness that college may just lead to higher debt and not higher earnings opportunity, we'll see if that in turn leads to more people asking for and receiving training that gets them into construction.

CHAIR BURROWS:  Thank you.

(Simultaneous speaking.)

COMMISSIONER LUCAS:  Thank you so much.

CHAIR BURROWS:  All right.  So I know, Mr. Winters, that you have a hard stop coming up soon, so I'm going to start with you.  I did interrupt you a little earlier as you were beginning to give us a picture about some of the barriers that Native Americans face in this industry, so I wanted to allow you to resume.

MR. WINTERS:  There we go, I got the microphone to work.  Thank you very much.  I wanted to kind of dovetail onto what Mr. Simonson was talking about, every Monday I'm at Joint Base Lewis-McChord and if we're talking about persons of color in underserved communities, I think everyone on this panel and this webinar could agree that the United States military and its Armed Forces is directly represented of those communities, that has been for centuries.  Every Monday there is a career skills program, DoD sponsored, certified, that targets men and women and their spouses getting out of the United States Armed Forces with career opportunities.

Sadly the SFLTAP, or Solder For Life Transition Assistance Program, the Marine For Life Program, Ranger For Life Program, Monday there were only three (3) trade organizations there, the UAVIP, The United Association Veterans In Piping, which is the Plumbers and Pipefitters union, the SMART Heroes Sheet Metal Workers union Local 66, and the Painters and Allied Trades Veterans Program.  But if somebody comes up and wants to be introduced or engaged in another trade program, all of us band together and help that service member or spouse get to that program, provided it's state and federally recognized so that they're not disadvantaged by a program that isn't recognized by the industry.  And then those perpetuations of, you know, isolation and roadblocks are supported and continued.

So, you know, the biggest example that I can see, that I wanted to dovetail into about why I'm so adamantly passionate about a career in technical programs and state and federally recognized apprenticeship, the Explosive Handling Wharf project that was completed a number of years ago at Bangor Sub Base, was the largest Department of Defense Project Labor Agreement of its kind.  And it was oddly enough, on time, under budget, and had the largest minority inclusion on it that had been recorded in a number of years.  I know I have a very close relationship with the diversity and inclusion manager that did work for that general contractor that is still here in the area.

So when we're talking about how we create opportunities and, like I said earlier, actions, not words, is showing up, having those pathways to those opportunities and promoting those on a regular basis through our employer organizations.  We meet with our employers regularly to talk about what we aren't doing and what communities we're not reaching, and we've just taken on using social media, Facebook, Geo-fencing to reach those underserved communities.

So when we're passionate about these programs, it's because we see the changes it makes in lives.  I sat yesterday with an Air Force Sergeant who was, and I'm not going to mention his name for OPSEC reasons, but, you know, he wasn't down range in Afghanistan but he was there for a couple of years, and his firebase was being bombed almost every single day.  And he talked about, last night when I was assisting him to get to the SMART Heroes program, which is really where he wants to be, a sheet metal worker, he said, you know, I was in dollar store and somebody got on the microphone, and when they cued the microphone to actually say, you know, cleanup on aisle whatever, that electronic crackle that went across the microphone, he hit the floor and he climbed to the corner because just that static, that post-traumatic stress that he was combating, would literally suck the air out of him.

Now a person of color being exposed to that kind of, just, it kills me.  It kills me because there are plenty of opportunities for all of us to provide positive examples of inclusion and outreach, and the (unintelligible) Vocational Training Center is one of those where you can go and it doesn't matter what community you come from, the color of your skin or your culture, you're welcomed and I don't see a lot of voluntary support of these programs happening.  (Unintelligible) graduates another class of Native American students from all tribes on June 10, and today I see just a handful of trades that go there and say, we're here, our doors are open.  So I welcome employer groups to join us in this fight for equality and inclusion.  So thank you Chair Burrows.

CHAIR BURROWS:  Well thank you, and we are -- I see I'm out of time, but I would like to thank every one of you and say that we are going to go to a break.  I really appreciate this time so if you could bear with us, I know, Mr. Winters, you may not.  We'll be back in about 10 minutes from now which looks like it's about 11 minutes past the hour, and we will see you very soon, so I thank you.

(Whereupon, the above-entitled matter briefly went off the record.)

CHAIR BURROWS:  Thank you.  The hearing will now resume.  We will now proceed with our second round of questions from members of the commission to the panelists, and again each commissioner will have five minutes for questions, beginning with the vice chair.

PARTICIPANT:  Thank you Chair Burrows.  I guess one of the things that we at EEOC focus on is intersectional discrimination and the ways in which people's different characteristics interrelate in creating or denying them opportunities.  So I guess my first question in that regard is for Ms. Hegewisch about -- you mentioned the increase in representation of women in the construction industry in recent years, which is really salutary.  I wonder if you can talk to us about whether that increase has also been enjoyed by women of color, or whether there are differences in the rates for White women and other females in the construction industry?

MS. HEGEWISCH:  Yeah.  Thank you so much for this question.  We -- the data -- the -- because there's so few women in construction, the Bureau of Labor statistics do not publish good data on it, but our analysis of apprenticeships shows that increases have been across racial and ethnic groups for women.  They have been particularly large in percentage terms for Black women, Latinas, and also for White women, so there have been gains across the board.  I should say that Latinas are particularly -- in a way, they are compared to other women in the trades, they're overrepresented, like Latino men, but they're much less likely still to be in the best paying opportunities and apprenticeships.  So it's good to have also seen progress there.  And where progress has been made that has very much relied on intentional project, and also these were successful project labor agreements, which have pushed change.

PARTICIPANT:  Thank you for sharing those thoughts and that information, that's very helpful.  I'd like to go back to Ms. Bailey if I could and ask another question about intersectionality.  I think that you say you are organized on behalf of queer and Black workers.  I wonder if you could talk a little bit about whether there are different challenges for queer workers and whether queer workers of color -- and particularly Black queer workers -- face intersectional barriers that we should be paying particular attention to?

MS. BAILEY:  That's a good question.  So I've spent a long time organizing alongside folks who belong to these communities, and I wouldn't want to say that I necessarily speak on behalf of everyone, but the trends that I've observed is generally that within folks' marginalized identities, or as you all call them, some of the intersections, people do experience discrimination differently.  And to the extent that some folks seem completely absent from our conversations, and even in the recruitment process are not very present, and so at the end of my testimony what I was alluding to was simply saying that workers of color don't necessarily have a uniform experience, that this experience will be different for Black workers, this experience will be different for indigenous workers, and that those experiences will be different from folks from Asian or Latinx communities.  Similarly with gender, I often find that folks, particularly who are gender diverse or gender non-conforming, might actually, depending on, you know, what their experience is, might be more interested in careers in the trades, but like I said because of the harassment and exclusion, might not, you know, show up the same way or I should say have the same rate of representation.

I think also the way that we talk about marginalized gender could be a little more inclusive.  I think it's wonderful to talk more about including women in the trades.  I don't know necessarily, like I said, the experiences of a lot of transgender folks, and so like I said, that depends on, you know, their experiences, you know, how their presentation might look.  And so, I think that's something that we need to be cognizant of when we're thinking about doing outreach and really thinking about how we're going to shift the culture to include more folks because it's often, as we figure out how to be inclusive of more folks, we're solving issues for folks who might already be included, and so I think that's -- I know one of the other panelists talked about, for example, having tools that fit different shaped bodies, and so they were doing that in the interest of including more folks who weren't cis men, but I think there's also a lot of cis men who would benefit from something like that.  So you know, I just wanted to name that and make sure those folks are included and present in our work.

PARTICIPANT:  Well thank you so much.  I have so many more questions for all of you, but sadly I think I'm out of time.  I will look forward to continuing the conversation and to taking to heart all of the information we've been provided.  Thank you.

CHAIR BURROWS:  Thank you.  And now we will go to Commissioner Dhillon.

COMMISSIONER DHILLON:  Thank you.  Mr. Simonson, I have a couple more questions for you.  I'm not sure if I see you.


COMMISSIONER DHILLON:  Oh.  All right, there you are.  Thank you.  As I was going through your organization's website, one of the things I noticed under your culture of care was 20 HR best practices for diversity in construction, and I thought it was actually very well done.  Very succinct and to the point, and very practical and helpful.  How could the EEOC help the industry with this initiative and these types of efforts?

MR. SIMONSON:  Well I'm glad that you find our effort at this helpful, and I would hope that the EEOC would either produce documents of a similar nature or point to other sources that people can turn to to improve their own programs, so this is something that we don't think is locked in stone.  Clearly, it's going to require some feedback on people's experience with both sorts of recommendations we're making and the nature of the workforce who is coming forward to either try construction or if there are cases -- and we unfortunately know that are way too many of them, but people are experiencing discrimination and harassment and worse, then and we want to be able to include that kind of thing in the document.  And similarly, we hope that EEOC will call attention to egregious examples and provide recommendations for how companies can improve their practices, their own culture so that everybody can feel that this is an industry that they have opportunity in, and they don't need to keep an eye on their back.

COMMISSIONER DHILLON:  Thank you.  I think I'll stick with you.  You know, there's a lot of federal agencies that regulate various aspects of the construction industry.  As my colleague, Commissioner Sonderling mentioned earlier, and I think, you know, sometimes despite our best intentions, we have a tendency to run into each other.  I would like to focus on the EEOC and the NLRB for a moment.  A few years back, I think there was some concerns that the EEOC and the NLRB were not necessarily singing from the same sheet of music.  You know, behavior -- workplace behavior that the EEOC considered to be harassment and inappropriate were -- was activity that the NLRB was taking the position was actually protected concerted activity.

I think there was an effort to try to reconcile those two views and I think the two agencies were successful, but now I fear that there might be some backsliding in that area.  So whether it's that issue or any other issue where you see federal agencies that seem to be sending conflicting messages, are there any other examples, or that example, that we should be aware of at the EEOC as we go about doing our work?

MR. SIMONSON:  You got me on that one.  I do know that my colleagues have experienced that multiple times, and I'll be glad to submit something for the record.  It's just not part of my (unintelligible.).

COMMISSIONER DHILLON:  Certainly.  I understand.  So let's go back then to outreach and educational opportunities.  And I think you mentioned that, you know, if the EEOC could provide guidance documents, technical assistance documents that are very straightforward, to the point, written in plain English, that could be helpful.  Are there any other kinds of outreach and educational opportunities you think the EEOC could undertake that would be helpful to furthering our common goals of promoting fair workplaces in the construction industry?

MR. SIMONSON:  Well we've found that highlighting good examples really provides a guidepost to companies that want to do the right thing but don't have the resources to develop those tools themselves, or are not sure what is the approved guidance at this stage?  So just as AGC has been presenting diversity and inclusion awards in order to show best practices to the rest of the industry, we think this is the sort of thing that the EEOC could do.  Use your bully pulpit to show how you think things are being done well by either a particular company, an industry, an association, a union, other groups.  There are a lot of good examples out there, and by just shining the spotlight on the bad ones, while that's necessary, it doesn't necessarily help a company that isn't having the most egregious practices, but aren't sure if they're doing all they can to promote diversity and inclusion.  And so I think accentuate the positive is a message that would work well for the EEOC, as well as other agencies.

COMMISSIONER DHILLON:  Well thank you, that's very helpful, and I think my time has expired.

CHAIR BURROWS:  Thank you, and looking forward to connecting on those suggestions.  So I will go now to Commissioner Sonderling.

COMMISSIONER SONDERLING:  Thank you very much.  My first question is for Ms. Hegewisch.  I'm sorry if I'm not pronouncing your name correctly. But I did review the written materials submitted by your colleague, Dr. Mason, explaining that the -- first and foremost the reason there are so few women in the trades is because quote, finding out about opportunities in the trades is haphazard.  As you know, our laws protect job applicants as well.

And, you know, something we care about very much is making sure that people have equal opportunity to enter the workforce and know about those very important opportunities.  So I'm going to ask you a broad question that is really what can the EEOC do to help here for compliance assistance?  Specifically, you know, what would you like us to see the federal agency responsible for ensuring applicants are provided with equal opportunity to ensure that finding out about opportunities in trades are not haphazard, and getting more women involved in the construction industry, or getting involved in trades as well?  So I will give you the floor.  I think we're all very curious of what you would want from us to make that happen?

MS. HEGEWISCH:  Thank you.  I think one thing I -- to some extent I echo what the previous witness has said, that it is using the bully pulpit to show that change is possible to make sure that in schools, you know, women are -- well, young women have as much opportunities to learn about opportunities in the trades in career and technical education.  To highlight examples, and I think in the -- during the Obama Administration, the EEOC was collaborating with other federal agencies around equal pay, and I think something similar, collaborating with other agencies in terms of promoting opening up of occupations which are well paid and where women are under-represented can help.

The other issues are, you know, for the EEOC to come in to lift up programs such as Rise Up from Washington, D.C., which is -- from Washington, from Washington State, which is a program to specifically tailor-made for the construction trades to improve worksite cultures, Green Dot for construction, Safe from Hate in Oregon, the type of initiatives that have been supported in Massachusetts and Oregon and Chicago, to have career fairs specifically reaching out to women.

So it's kind of to put the -- you know, we -- often when we talk to women who now work in construction, they say when I was at school I was smart, I was told to be a nurse.  I didn't know that construction opportunities existed.  I may have gotten a degree in English,  I couldn't find a good job, and then I ran across a trade school (unintelligible.).  So really to put the -- these opportunities more into the ether will help, any which way.

COMMISSIONER SONDERLING:  Thank you very much.  And now to Ms. Bailey, and I'll give it a second to pull up.  Okay, in your written testimony, you talked about strategic enforcement priorities from the EEOC, including engagement with marginalized workers, like worker centers to build workers capacity, to collaborate with the EEOC.

Now, from an outreach perspective to these workers centers, you know, I want -- the EEOC has, you know, a robust outreach program, our outreach and training coordinators are located throughout the country.  My first question is have you been able to engage with them, and if you haven't, what do we need to do to improve that situation to make sure that our coordinators who are trained in compliance with all the laws, from not just an educational perspective, but from an enforcement perspective, is an available resource to you and your colleagues at worker centers throughout the United States?

MS. BAILEY:  Thank you for that follow-up.  So I did get connected with them as a result of folks reaching out, particularly around this panel,  and so that was, you know, a fortunate connection, and I will also say that, you know, I think that together, we have some work to do to really build the faith and build trust in the community.  There is a lot of folks who, you know, I find may feel discouraged to approach the commission, and I think part of that is honestly retaliation and, you know, what they have or haven't seen in community, so I do think there is opportunity to build trust over time so I really appreciate having that connection so we could start to build that for folks.  So thank you.

COMMISSIONER SONDERLING:  Great.  And you -- everyone can find more information about our training coordinators on our website.  It's a great, very valuable resource.

CHAIR BURROWS:  Thank you.  And now to Commissioner Lucas.

COMMISSIONER LUCAS:  Thank you.  I had a question for Ms. Hegewisch, and again I apologize for if I'm botching your name.  You've mentioned that one thing that the EEOC could do in your testimony -- your written testimony was to increase public accountability, typically with respect to the disclosure of data.  There certainly has been generally a push by many companies to voluntarily disclose demographic data.  I'm interested in whether or not you've seen a similar push for unions to disclose demographic data in terms of either apprentices, journeymen, journeywomen, general membership ranks, or hours worked?

MS. HEGEWISCH:  I -- so I'm probably not the best person for that.  The data that are most available is apprenticeship data and that is available from the OA, the Office of Apprenticeship website, although they are working on making those data available, publicizing them by race, ethnicity, and gender on a regular basis.  And those are very often union labor management programs, which means the unions are involved.

Where it would be very helpful for unions to publicize more data is, for example, on their pension records because we know that they have those certainly by gender, and it would allow us to track and for them to show the progress that is being made in making sure that women have equal access to the hours worked in the construction trades.

COMMISSIONER LUCAS:  Continuing with you, you mentioned in your oral statements today that in your experience or your research that caregiving was not as much of a barrier as harassment onsite.  Has that changed -- in terms of women leaving the construction industry, or not entering it -- is that still true even with the impact on caregivers that resulted from lockdowns and school closures during the pandemic?

MS. HEGEWISCH:  So, as far as we know, yes.  Our survey was conducted last year so it was during the pandemic already.  And we also know that women's numbers have risen in construction.  In absolute terms they are higher than before.  That said, clearly childcare hours, work hours are not very easy if you work in construction, and in our experience there, a few really innovative and interesting project to try and tackle the childcare issues, including from NAP2 (phonetic.) who are now working on two pilot projects in Oregon and Massachusetts, and what's really interesting is that often in those projects it is single fathers who are as likely to be supported by those supports as woman.  So childcare and care is a problem, I don't want to belittle it, but it is not the only problem in the construction industry, and it certainly isn't the main issue driving women out of construction who've already found their way in.       

COMMISSIONER LUCAS:  I do want to hear more about the discrimination and harassment issues, but I would be interested in hearing a little bit more about those pilot programs that you mentioned related to caregivers.

MS. HEGEWISCH:  Yeah, so the -- there's one in Oregon since -- oh, for the last decade they have appropriated their federal funds for highway construction to improve diversity in the trades, and part of that is being used to provide childcare supports for apprentices.  And it's kind of scaled, you get most support in the first year, and then it gets less as you earn more, and linked to that, programs to link the workers who need that care to in-home daycare providers who can provide it, and to make sure that those workers also earn union rates.  In Massachusetts, in the Boston area they recently started a project which has some funding from developers, as well as other sources.  Again, they are -- they are matching trades women or men who need childcare with in-home daycare providers who can meet those early hours, and the NAP2 has now two pilot programs which are just starting, and they are part of project labor agreements to ensure that a set number of workers can get access to childcare subsidies, and they will also be helped with, you know, finding the childcare because very often finding it is as hard as paying for it, particularly at the moment.


CHAIR BURROWS:  Terrific.  Well, I will go then to Dr. Griffey, and I'd like to start by saying that we are very proud of our history at the EEOC, is the agency created a direct response to the historical march on Washington for jobs and freedom, and I thought I would ask you if you could just tell us a little bit more about how racial discrimination in construction, at least during the period from the New Deal through the early 60s, was one of the driving forces behind that march and the call for equal employment opportunity?

MR. GRIFFEY:  Sure.  So, thank you for the opportunity to speak.  The short of it is that racism was overt, systematic and near total in the skilled trades of the construction industry before the 1970s.  And this racism was not just located in the South, but was nationwide.  And that it was practiced somewhat informally before the 1930s, but the extension of labor law to the private sector meant that unions became complicit and even the government became complicit as a result of the federal certification of labor unions and the ways in which their influence over hiring practices, including hiring calls , was part of the industry's structure and how apprenticeship programs worked, how dispatch to jobs worked, et cetera.

Start -- it depends on when you want to start in terms of talking about the Black Freedom Movement, but certainly A. Philip Randolph's threatened March on Washington and the call for fair employment in federal government spending in the military during World War II started a process through which the federal government committed itself to saying that on government-sponsored construction and other kinds of activities, that fair employment law would apply.

And so this was a challenge that unions knew that they faced, and employers knew that they faced starting in the 1940s.  But their response to this challenge, including the passage of a series of state-based non-discrimination laws -- so when the federal loan discrimination law ends at the end of World War II, states start passing similar laws hoping that they can build towards the revival of fair employment law at the federal level, starting with New York state and going to others.  Still, the enforcement was usually substandard.  The industry resistance was significant, and often various employers said this violates our prerogatives, and unions said this violates our seniority and very little change would happen.

And so, the building trades are -- it's not that racism in the trades motivates the whole Black Freedom struggle, which is much bigger than that, but the refusal to desegregate and the failure of kind of voluntary compliance with non-discrimination law at the state level and later at the federal level, starting with President Kennedy's executive orders in the early 1960s, made the building trades a particular target of Black Freedom struggles, such that when the march on Washington happened and there was a demand for not just the desegregation of the South, but also for a desegregation of American industry, everybody knew that debates over Title 7 of the Civil Rights Act were also partly about debates over work in the construction trades.

That doesn't mean that it was exclusively that by any stretch.  But it did mean that this was part of this bigger movement and they were a kind of litmus test for compliance with the law and questions about whether the government was serious in taking on racism.  And it was a very challenging issue because while there was widespread political support for taking on Jim Crow's segregation in the South, there was much less support in the United States for taking on racism outside the South.

And so that's some of these struggles then lead not just to the pass -- to the creation of the EEOC, the passage of Title 7 and the Civil Rights Act, but also more aggressive attempts to try to enforce fair employment law and say that if you profess that you are not engaging in racist practices, but your workforce demographics change not at all, then that is pretty weak compliance.  And that there -- something more needs to happen.  And so in my written statements, you heard me -- you maybe saw me say affirmative action means more than zero, and that's the kind of big takeaway from these debates over kind of fights to desegregate the construction trades at that time.

CHAIR BURROWS:  Well, I thank you.  I could ask all of you a number of additional questions, but I want to be respectful of time and I know that at least one of you has a very hard stop now, so I am out of time.  And with that, I will just say thank you to each of our panels -- panelists here today and for sharing your expertise.

It is never enough time for all the questions that I know that each of us has, but I am very grateful to you and we do -- this will be enormously important and helpful as we go forward, and I really want to thank each of you for your suggestions and your very excellent testimony today.  We'll take a quick break for lunch.  I'm sure everyone else is hungry too, and resume in just about 30 minutes, so 20 of 2:00, I would say, so 1:40 -- I'm sorry, no, that's not enough.  At -- right at 2:00.  Right at 2:00 -- 1:00.  Thank you.

(Whereupon, the above entitled matter briefly went off the record.)

CHAIR BURROWS:  The hearing will now resume.  Welcome back to my fellow Commissioners and members of the public who are joining us virtually today, and a very, very special welcome to our distinguished panel of speakers for participating in today's hearing and for sharing your expertise with us here today.

With that, I'm pleased to introduce the speakers on our second panel in the order that they will be speaking today.  And so we'll start with Gary, who's worked in the construction industry for most of the last 23 years as an ironworker, operator, mechanical millwright, and other jobs.  We are using only his first name today in an abundance of caution.  In 2016, he experienced unlawful discrimination while working at an Upstate New York construction site as an ironworker and operator.

James Bobseine is a trial attorney with our Buffalo local office.  Here at the EEOC, he served as a lead counsel in the EEOC's discrimination suit against the Texas-based construction company where Gary works.

Following them will be David Chincanchan, who serves as the Policy Director for Workers Defense Project, where he collaborates with worker leaders to develop and execute strategic local, state, and federal policy campaigns focused on improving construction industry standards and advancing immigration and criminal legal system reforms.

We also have Japlan "Jazz" Allen, graduated from the Chicago Women in Trades pre-apprenticeship program and became an apprentice ironworker in 2003.  She now helps to lead Chicago Women in Trades, serving as the Vice President of Chicago Women in Trades' Board of Directors, and she also serves as President of the Women's Committee of Local 1 Ironworkers.

Melissa Wells serves as Special Assistant for Diversity and Inclusion to President McGarvey of North America's Building Trades Unions as a community development professional.  Melissa is skilled in bridging relationships between diverse stakeholder groups and is passionate about advancing success to opportunity and economic security.

Welcome, and I thank all of you for being here today once again.  As a reminder, you each have five minutes for your remarks.  Our IT experts are keeping track of time, and they will just use the track function today to let you know when your time is resuming.  And with that, I will turn the mic over to Gary for your testimony.  Please go ahead.

GARY:  Hello, everyone.  My name is Gary.  I was involved in an EEOC case against a construction company that took place in 2016.  I have been in construction since '99, 2000, maybe. And I worked all over the country, at least 15-plus states.

I've always been skilled and adamant about doing the job that I do.  And it's about communication, having the right tools, and knowing what other obstacles may come up, and being able to resolve them at the same time.  In construction, the people around you kind of become your family.  And that's what we solely rely on as a source of help or -- you know, just the emotional state of it.

In 2016, I drove up from Alabama to work a job in New York state.  About a month after working, I started getting racist remarks from my supervisor as well as other coworkers.  My primary supervisor, he always noted over the radio because I was a load operator at the time.  Gary, get your Black ass down here now.  And it kind of caught me off guard when he first did it, but after a while, I was like -- I don't get -- just like, why is he saying it like that?

Another time, he asked me -- you know, so I was asking -- it was around about Halloween holiday, and he asked me if I was going trick-or-treating.  And I was like, yeah, you know what I'm saying?  We were just joking around or whatever.  And he said, you know what, Gary?  You don't even have to dress up.  And I looked at him oddly like, where are you going with this?  And he said, as a matter of fact, I'll walk you down the street; I'll put a noose around your neck, and I'll put my white cape on and we'll go trick-or-treating.

And I didn't take too kindly to that. Other supervisors did similar things as well.  One of them asked me for assistance over there in the area he was working, and when I got there, he had made a noose around one of the ropes that we normally use and had it dangling in front of the Conex where he was standing when I got there.

Also, there was another coworker of mine, and he considered me as his favorite nigger, he used to always say after he'd tell his jokes. One of his jokes was, what begins with an N and ends with an R?  And so the first time he told it, I looked at him strange.  And he said, "Neighbor.  You thought I was going to say the other N word, huh?"

So I didn't take too kindly to that neither.  It bothered me a lot, then, that I'm on the road having to make money, provide for my family, and still try to stay focused at the same time. Because situations get hectic, critical, critical lifts -- you name it.  It all takes place on a construction site.  And hearing racist jokes, it's just some days adding on to the extra stress because -- you know what I'm saying?  Like I said, you start to accept them as family because you're around them more than you are your family.

As a result, the EEOC was able to compensate me for the situation that took place.  Two of the supervisors that harassed me constantly can no longer work for that company, and they also made multiple changes within that company as a result of what took place with me. Thank you.

CHAIR BURROWS:  Thank you for sharing that, and I'm sorry you had to go through that. But I appreciate your coming forward and helping us with the hearing today.  And I would then go to Mr. Bobseine.

MR. BOBSEINE:  Thank you very much.  Good afternoon, Chair Burrows, Vice Chair Samuels, Commissioners Dhillon, Lucas, and Sonderling.  My name is James Bobseine, and I'm an EEOC trial attorney at the local office in Buffalo, New York, which is part of the New York district.  Thank you for inviting me to speak today about the EEOC's litigation against CCC Group, which is a construction company based in San Antonio.

At the outset, I have to say that I am truly honored to speak today alongside Gary.  He is a skilled, knowledgeable, and hardworking craftsman who took a risk in participating in the EEOC lawsuit because he felt compelled to speak out about what he experienced.  Without Gary and others like him, the EEOC would not be able to do its important work.  I also want to thank EEOC Investigator Rachel Wantuck of the Buffalo office and supervisory trial attorney Nora Curtin of the New York District Office for their help.

In its complaint against the company, the EEOC alleged that White supervisors and employees at the company regularly made racist comments, used racial slurs, threatened a Black employee with nooses, and subjected Black employees to harsher working conditions than White coworkers.  The EEOC ultimately obtained a consent decree that resolved this lawsuit.

As part of the decree, the company agreed to pay $420,000 to seven former Black employees.  The EEOC had alleged the company allowed those White supervisors and coworkers to harass those Black employees.  The three-year-long decree requires the company to take various actions, and these injunctive provisions respond to the particular allegations in the EEOC's case.  They are tailored to the personnel and structure of the company and the nature of its work in the construction industry.

For example, under the decree, the company conducted a lessons-learned presentation for global business unit managers, and this presentation focused on the EEOC complaint, the content of the decree, and included thorough anti-harassment training.  The decree also required the company to appoint an Equal Employment Opportunity Manager, a new position at the company.

This EEO Manager is responsible for ensuring that the company complies with the decree and other federal employment discrimination laws.  Among other duties, the EEO Manager must promptly investigate internal complaints of discrimination and visit company work sites to meet with employees and managers to discuss EEO issues.

For as long as the decree is effective, within 15 days of receiving a complaint of racial discrimination from any employee or applicant, the company must report the complaint to the EEOC.  Within 30 days of receiving such a complaint, the company must report each step taken to investigate such a complaint, the results of the investigation, and any action taken by the company.

The decree also required the company to place written disciplinary actions in the permanent employee files of two former supervisors and enjoined the company from rehiring them for their engagement in racial harassment.  Those are just some of the decree's requirements.  This kind of targeted injunctive relief is a vital part of the EEOC's litigation program to ensure that employees can do their jobs in safe and respectful workplaces.

As you just heard from Gary, the Black employees that worked on that job site in 2016 and participated in the EEOC's lawsuit were hardworking, experienced construction workers who were dedicated to skillfully and safely doing their very difficult jobs.  This injunctive relief was designed to make certain, to the extent possible, that they and others like them can do so at that company.  Thank you very much.

CHAIR BURROWS:  Thank you, and I appreciate your being here.  I know this is a difficult time for our Buffalo colleagues, and we really appreciate it.  So with that, I will go to Mr. David Chincanchan.

MR. CHINCANCHAN:  Thank you, Chair.  Good afternoon, it's an honor to join with you today.  Thank you for creating the space to discuss the solutions  needed to dismantle long-standing barriers to equal employment opportunity in the construction industry.  My name's David Chincanchan, and I serve as a Policy Director for Workers Defense Project.  And Workers Defense Project is a membership-based statewide organization that empowers low-income workers throughout Texas to achieve fair employment through education, organizing, direct services and strategic partnerships.

Like others have done today, I also want to take a moment to pay respect and honor the lives lost in the mass shooting in Buffalo, New York.  The shooting shows that hate and racism is alive and well and that it permeates our society to such an extent that it all too frequently manifests itself in this physical and violent way.  And to some, it may not seem that this is a relevant news story to our focus on the construction industry here today.  But to us in Texas, this horrifying incident targeting the Black community, people simply going on about their lives in a supermarket in Buffalo, New York, is very relevant.

It's relevant for us in Texas because it is unsettlingly similar to the 2019 mass shooting in El Paso that also took place in a supermarket.  At the time, it was a White supremacist who (inaudible) anti-immigrant words of some national leaders in his manifesto, armed himself, and drove more than 600 miles to El Paso to end the lives of 23 innocent people, targeting them simply because of the color of their skin.

So the shooting targeting the Black community and the shooting targeting the Latino community and the rise of hate and violence against the Asian American community during the pandemic show that these aren't isolated incidents, that it's something that affects all of us regardless of our backgrounds, and should lead us to resolve to urgently address the rise of violent hatred, racism, and discrimination in our country.

And as we all know here today, our workplaces are not exempt from this.  So, this hateful rhetoric and violence is transcribed directly into the policy that governs our daily lives.  It results in immigration and criminal legal systems that tear families apart and terrorize communities.  It's reflected in the exclusion of immigrant communities and essential workers from access to life-saving services and protections.  And it manifests itself in countless other ways.

But like another panelist said today, the creation of these laws and policies has always been a choice, and therefore the dismantling of these barriers to equal employment that we're talking about today is also a choice.  We can make a choice to reshape our policies and institutions in ways that respect the dignity of each of our lives and the value of our work.

Workers Defense Project members, including low-wage immigrant construction workers, are fighting against discrimination, harassment, and wage theft that's so prevalent in our state's construction industry.  They courageously take on this work despite facing intimidation and retaliation because they know from personal experience how urgently change is needed.  They understand that real change can only happen if workers lead and are able to speak out against injustice without fear of being punished for simply seeking dignity and fair treatment for themselves and others.

In my written testimony, I attached several reports that provide more information about the working conditions of construction workers in Texas and throughout the South, and I encourage you to take a look specifically at the report titled Build a Better South, which talks about how common workplace injuries are, how few construction workers have access to basic employment benefits, the types of economic hardships experienced by many construction workers despite working long hours, and just how widespread violations of basic labor rights are in the South.

And I want to conclude by reiterating the opportunity that the federal government has ahead of it.  As the federal government continues to grapple with the pandemic and seeks to make massive infrastructure investments through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and other initiatives, it has a key role to play in ensuring that essential front-line construction workers are able to perform their job safely and are protected from discrimination and retaliation when they speak out against the types of exploitative policies that harm workers and their families, threaten immigrant communities, and ultimately endanger us.

Federal agencies that are charged with reviewing applications and awarding funding in connection with these infrastructure investment efforts must rise to this moment and include both incentives and requirements in the process to sensibly protect workers.  I included information about our Better Builder Program, which can serve as a model to do just that.

And finally, to ensure that existing labor standards are properly enforced and we can continue to build opportunity and progress together, we as a federal government, including the EEOC, the Department of Labor, and the Department of Homeland Security, to take meaningful steps not just to hold abusive employers accountable but to protect workers who come forward to denounce these abuses regardless of race, gender identity, immigration status, or any other characteristics on which employment discrimination is based.  Thank you for your time.

CHAIR BURROWS:  Thank you.  And I will go now to Jazz Allen.

SPEAKER:  Pardon me.  Jazz, if you could please unmute and begin again.

MS. ALLEN:  Thank you so much.  Thanks for having me.  Good morning, Chair Burrows and Chair Samuels and members of the Commission.  This is a great opportunity for you guys to get together, and I'm happy to be a part of this conversation of you guys leading the way.  Right?

I'm Japlan Allen.  I'm a success story.  I'm a testimony for coming through the penal system through the -- and discovering a flyer of Chicago Women in Trade that stated "women can do it too."  I entered the trades back in 2001.  I'm a 21-year member of Chicago Women in Trade and a 20-year member of the Local 1 Ironworkers.  This has been the greatest experience I've had in my life because outside of the penal system, I joined Chicago Women in Trade to build a career and join a sisterhood.

We all know that the trades are great careers, but only 4 percent of the construction apprentices make up the apprenticeship.  Chicago Women in Trade is now making a difference and always have since 1979 in training women to be competitive, but we only have a limited reach.  Even though I have had a great career, unfortunately, it has not been the same for a lot of many women.

We join and lead the pre-apprenticeships in helping women join the trades.  The only problem is when you join the apprenticeship, there's still hurdles that you have to come over like the lack of training, the lack of safe and healthy conditions, harassment-free.  The problem is not getting the women into the apprenticeship.  The problem is retaining our women.

So I listen to statistics, and statistics tell us that we have a lot of women of Color and a lot of women joining the trades, but they don't have statistics stating how long they have been there.  My problem is you can't become great at your job without being on the job.  You can't be the best to compete in this male-dominated White field without having proper training.

Yes, we have had many jobs, and yes, nine times out of ten, I'm the only woman.  Not only am I a woman, I'm a Black woman.  So that's double barriers for me.  So I work hard out there in the field.  I do everything that I need to do because I know that women in Chicago Women in Trade are coming behind me, and they're standing on the shoulders of me.  It's one thing to hire a woman to meet your required goals, and in the same token, once you meet the required goals, in that same month to be laid off.

You all have heard all the horror stories.  I can give you a million horror stories right now about things that went on in the field, such as Outi Hicks.  Outi Hicks is one of our carpenter women in Fresno, California, that was bludgeoned to death by a carpenter.  Outi Hicks passed.  She had three children.  And these are some of the things that women face out here in the field.

My job here and what I want to do is offer the EEOC solutions from Chicago Women in Trade such as sexual harassment.  To attack sexual harassment, you have to have zero tolerance.  And to get zero tolerance, you have to have proper and good training.  Ironworkers are now leading the way with To Be That One Guy.  Be that one guy.  Be that one guy to step out in the field and say, this is wrong.  Be that one guy to step out and say, help this sister.  Be that one guy to, when something's going down in the field with people of Color, to say, that's not right.

Local 1 Ironworkers, in leadership with Vicky O'Leary, a 30-year ironworker, is leading the way with that.  So I'm here to offer solutions.   We can speak on these problems all we want, sisters and brothers, and nothing will ever happen.  So what I'm projecting for a solution is working with Chicago Women in Trade and women in other groups like ours to identify the strategies to uncover discrimination.

I would like to be at the forefront of taking action on this.  This would be great.  Not only that, how do we start taking action?  By being direct and intentional about diversity/inclusion.  I heard someone on the call earlier say we give them information that they can or they may use.  That means they're given information about discrimination and sexual harassment, paperwork that they may or may not use, which means they won't be responsible if they don't use it.

So with that being said, it would be great and it would be an honor for us all to get together and lead the forefront and attach the most important chief players, which are the stakeholders in this whole thing, which are the unions, which are the contractors, which are the apprenticeships, which are the pre-apprenticeships such as Chicago Women in Trade.  And then my own union, Be That One Guy, is leading the way.  And if I can help you guys have solutions today, that would be great.  Thank you.

CHAIR BURROWS:  Thank you.  And we are definitely all about solutions and action.  And with that, I will go to Melissa Wells.

MS. WELLS:  Thank you.  Thank you.  Good afternoon Madam Chair and Commissioners.  Thank you for having me today.  I just want to also just lift up Jazz that came before me and just to say that the work that Chicago Women in Trades and Tradeswomen Build Nations that we are doing with NABTU is very influential in NABTU being able to expand and grow on ways that we can support women and also deal with gender-based discrimination in the construction industry.  So I really thank Jazz and Vicky O'Leary for the work they're doing on that.

So as folks know, I'm Melissa Wells.  I'm the Special Assistant to the President of NABTU for diversity and inclusion.  North America's building trade unions are grateful for the Commission's focus on an issue that is one of our top priorities.  On behalf of our 14 affiliates, NABTU is strongly committed to stamping out all forms of jobsite discrimination.  NABTU is focused on diversifying the industry's workforce with deliberate actions that open career opportunities for anyone who wants to support themselves or their families with middle-class wages and benefits.

Annually, we invest $2 billion in our training -- in our upskills training and our registered apprenticeship training.  Our model creates economic opportunity for all through registered apprenticeship and pre-apprenticeship training in one of the 14 construction crafts.  We know that such opportunity has not always been available to women and people of Color, and that's not just because of the actions of one or more discriminatory contractors or even a union leader.

We know that discriminatory laws and exclusionary norms have also stacked the decks against women and people of Color joining the construction workforce.  NABTU and our councils across the country are working with all levels of government to advance and support sound public policy to promote diversity in our industry and eliminate discrimination.  NABTU believes the demographics of our unions should closely resemble the demographics of where we live and work, and that's exactly what we are working to achieve.

A unionized construction sector recruits a high percentage of apprentices who are people of Color and women.  Over the last 20 years, NABTU's registered apprenticeship programs have registered 40,000 more women and nearly 300,000 more people of Color than the unorganized construction sector.   Our nearly 200 apprenticeship readiness programs across the United States provide underrepresented communities access to middle class through registered apprenticeship.

These programs are flourishing due to our intentionality in partnerships with state and local government, local workforce investment boards, and local and national groups like YouthBuild, National Urban League, Catholic charities, and Goodwill Industries.  ARPs are bringing construction education back into high schools.  We are engaging young people earlier and earlier.  And we're teaching it in state prison systems, opening opportunities for the justice-involved who want a chance to change their lives.

Of the thousands of graduates over the last five years, 80 percent are people of Color; 25 percent are women. In that time, when you include Helmets to Hardhats, our veterans placement program, these programs have graduated almost 25,000 people, who are now in registered apprenticeship programs.

NABTU recently launched our new 501c3 called Trades Futures to expand these diverse recruitment, retention, and antidiscrimination programs. This demonstrated commitment to growing diversity would not be possible without a strong partnership from the business community. Organizations like the Association of Union Contractors, whose member companies proudly stake their reputation on paying their workforce, investing in skills training, and increasing diversity on their jobsites. They continue to be critical to the construction industry moving the needle on this issue. We also need more project owners and major construction companies to mirror Southern Company and Bexel. Both have showcased the advantage of working with the building trades to guarantee a skilled and diverse workforce on their jobsites, and not just in states that are known to be "union friendly." We understand that there is still more work to be done by all stakeholders in the construction industry, and that includes the nonunion sector of the industry.

NABTU remains concerned about nonunion organizations and contractor groups like ABC and AGC, specifically their opposition to public policy proven to help increase diversity in the construction sector.  Efforts to limit PLAs and prevailing wage or to diminish the quality of registered apprenticeship programs undermine the ability to grow and retain a diverse construction workforce.

NABTU will continue to oppose efforts to undermine diversification in construction and defeat anti-diversity or antidiscrimination public policy.  We will strengthen existing partnerships with high road employers and forge new ones, all to create pathways to the middle class for women and people of Color.

In closing, we know the responsibility to increase diversity in construction is shared by all stakeholders in the industry, from the C suite to the jobsite.  And NABTU and our 14 affiliates are doing our part.  We will continue to lead the way in fostering a truly diverse building trades future.  Thank you.  Look forward to your questions.

CHAIR BURROWS:  Thank you.  And we will now proceed with our first round of questions from members of the Commission to the panel.  Each Commissioner will have five minutes for questions, beginning with the Vice Chair.  Vice Chair Samuels?

VICE CHAIR SAMUELS:  Thank you Chair Burrows.  And thank you to all our witnesses for your extraordinarily powerful and insightful remarks.  This will really help us to do our job better and to work together with you to promote equal opportunity in the construction industry.

I'd like to start with Gary and say, first, thank you so much for coming forward, for representing so many of your coworkers, for being willing and having the resilience to challenge the harassment to which you were subjected.  You have made a tremendous impact on employees at CCC and, I hope, for the industry at-large.  My question for you is, how did you become aware that EEOC could help you?  Did CCC ever inform you about your rights?  Was there a place where they said, you have the right not to be subject to discrimination or harassment?  How did you know to come to us, and how can we ensure that other workers in the construction industry know that we are available and that they can come to us without a lawyer, without paying, and that we will investigate and try to resolve their claims?

GARY:  Okay.  Well, it actually was a girlfriend that I was dating at the time that advised me I needed to go to EEOC because I --first, I went to HR, and they just kind of brushed me off.  And I thought I was stuck with it until I consulted with her, and then she enlightened me on the steps I needed to take to get everything taken care of.

Now, as far as what needs to take place to prevent it from happening again, that's like a large step because you can't untrain somebody that's already been trained to think a certain way, especially at the age in their life -- like it's instilled within them.

Your other question was about EEO's --I mean CCC -- the handbook -- no, it was never in the handbook.  I mean, during orientation, it's rarely ever mentioned.  It could be placed in the handbook or have a representative on-site merging with HR.  I don't know, but just a thought.

VICE CHAIR SAMUELS:  That's very helpful.  Thank you so much.  And I know how hard it is to change hearts and minds, but I think we're all here committed to doing everything that we can to change practices and ensure equality of employment opportunity.  And in that connection, I'd like to turn to Mr. Bobseine just to talk about potential solutions.

And first let me say we are thinking of you and all of your colleagues in Buffalo, and our hearts go out to the whole community there.  But in terms of solutions, I know that you said that the injunctive relief that you were able to fashion with CCC was specific to that workplace and the threats and challenges that workers there faced.  But are there lessons learned that could potentially be used by others in the construction industry to get out ahead of problems before they ripen into discrimination, where we could potentially replicate some of the relief and provide assistance to people at the front end?

MR. BOBSEINE:  Thank you Vice Chair.  First, I do want to say that I appreciate the thoughts and concerns that everyone has expressed for my beautiful hometown and all of our hardworking compatriots in the Buffalo local office.  And I do not believe I -- and I do not speak for anyone, but I am -- you know, I don't have the words to describe the horror and the pain that is going through this city right now.  And I know that there's a lot of healing and so, so much work to be done.

And I do just want to say that I am proud to be a part of a federal agency that was created in opposition to racism and hatred of the kind that was evidenced in such an awful way in that mass killing, that racially motivated mass killing.  So I did just want to briefly address that.

To the second part of your question, there are -- or there were a lot of peculiarities about the construction industry, as evidenced by that particular company.  So, there were far-flung jobsites all over the country.  There were workers who had short tenures.  There was rapid turnover. There was a multilingual workforce.  And within the established policies within that company, there were also -- there were attempts to address in some kind of way this -- the nature of the work that was being done and the complaints that would come to the surface, but the reality was that they were getting caught up at a lower level in that company.

And so, some of the items that we addressed in the consent decree were let's make sure that with this workforce turning over quickly, we have regular training, training that happens very quickly when someone is onboarded.  With the position, the EEO Manager, that was created and required by the consent decree, for projects of a certain size or that are projected to last a certain length, that EEO Manager is required to visit those jobsites and have discussions about EEO issues with individuals who are responsible for addressing them on that site.

CHAIR BURROWS:  Mr. Bobseine, I'm so sorry.  I'm going to have to interrupt you there.  I will come back to you, but I want to make sure that we get to the rest of the Commission as well.

MR. BOBSEINE:  Of course.

CHAIR BURROWS:  So hold that thought, and I will ask you a question when we return.

I think, Commissioner Dhillon, if you are here, then please go ahead.

COMMISSIONER DHILLON:  Thank you. I guess my first questions are for Ms. Allen.  All right.  Give it a moment for her to -- ah.  There you are.  Thank you.  So I was very interested about your perspective about the need to retain, particularly, women when they get into that construction job and the kind of support and the kinds of things that need to happen to make sure that they continue and build their career.

And so what do you think the role of --if it's an organized jobsite, what do you think the role of unions and potentially the grievance process could be to help retain those women and other workers who are subject to discrimination and harassment?

MS. ALLEN:  Well, usually, the problem basically is the lack of  training.  So I'll give an example.  Say, for instance, you got an electrician.  And you got an A+ electrician, and they pull the wire and they're hanging up pipes.  They'll take the minority or the woman, and all they're doing is screwing in plates.  Or take another instance for a plumber. Instead of teaching them how to be plumbers, they'll have them just putting the screws in on the toilet fixtures at the end of the job.

So retaining and retention is a big --it's a real big problem.  So, with proper training -- well, in the field -- because everyone goes to the apprenticeship.  Let's be clear.  We all go to the apprenticeship.  We all are learning how to be professionals at what we do.  But when we get into the field -- and let's not forget, inside of the field, the general foreman, the foremen, the superintendents are all union workers.

So once we get there -- we do have apprenticeship coordinators, but the goal is that once we get inside of the union, how you keep us and retain is by proper training.  And that's exactly what we need to do, proper training -- to give them proper training and go -- so when I go to the next job and to the next job and to the next job, I can compete with anybody out there no matter the race, creed, or color.

COMMISSIONER DHILLON:  Do you think the grievance process plays a role in any of that?  Is it effective?

MS. ALLEN:  What grievance process?

COMMISSIONER DHILLON:  Filing a grievance, utilizing your union resources.

MS. ALLEN:  No.  Well, the problem with doing that is the minute you go -- once again, the job is ran by the union.  So, the minute you go inside and try to make a grievance for something, you might be penalized and may never get a job again.  So sometimes it's just a fear of going and letting someone know, well, I'm not getting trained and I'm not doing this and I'm not doing that.

Well, with that being said, this is a woman; she's a problem.  This is a Black woman; she's angry.  She's an angry Black woman.  Let's not train her at all.  Let's not put her out there.  And then I get another job six years later.  You know?  So that's basically it.  It's the fear of retaliation.

COMMISSIONER DHILLON:  So back up a little bit in the process.  In terms of raising awareness among particularly women about career opportunities in the construction industry, certainly, when I was in school, I was not aware of any of those kinds of opportunities.  What role do this public education, the high schools play? What role should they play in letting the students know that there are potential opportunities here to have a good career, well-paying career doing honorable work?  What should the schools be doing?

MS. ALLEN:  Oh, that's a great question, wonderful question, because we here at Chicago Women in Trade, we also have a women-built -- we have a council that's built by tradeswomen for the tradeswomen.  And what the school should do is, once we present it out there -- or reach out and try to find programs like ours, which we have been going into the high schools.  There was a point in time where we were reaching the seventh- and eighth-grade women, and we'd go in with Chicago Women in Trade and show them different opportunities that's out there.

And now, with the high school, it would be great if they implement it inside of a budget.  If you can implement that inside of a budget and let them know, here's an opportunity -- because I remember back in the '80s and the '90s where we had schools where we had trades inside of school.  If you look at the schools now, they're all out.  How can we implement that back into schools and have Chicago Women in Trade and other programs like ours to be a part of it?

COMMISSIONER DHILLON:  Yeah.  I agree with you.  So I think my time is about up.  Thank you.

MS. ALLEN:  Thank you so much.

CHAIR BURROWS:  Thank you.  And with that, we can go now to Commissioner Sonderling.

COMMISSIONER SONDERLING:  Thank you very much. Those were very interesting opening statements, and I think we all learned a lot.  So I have a question, sticking with you, Japlan, and also, I would like Gary -- if you're out there -- to chime in as well.  So, Japlan, in your opening statement in your Solution section, you talked about how the EEOC should promote policy and provide guidance and training, that agencies like us should amplify it times 100.  I completely agree with you.  But what does that mean, and how does that look to you?

And Gary, thank you for sharing your very disturbing story.  I'm glad the EEOC was there for you.  Obviously, we all wish it never happened.  But let's talk about that.  What does that guidance look like?  What does it look for you -- and I assume neither of you are labor and employment lawyers or HR professionals, but you want guidance that you can actually read and understand so you can go to HR and understand what your rights are and what your employer's obligations are to you.  So how do we make that in a way where you can understand it?

You're a professional and you're very good at what you do, but you also need to learn these very, very complicated federal laws.  How do we do that?  How does the EEOC do that for both of you?  I'm very curious of what your answer is, Japlan, from your perspective in the trades, and then Gary, having been through that terrible situation.  What does that document look like?  Because we need your input.

MS. ALLEN:  Okay.  I'll go first.  What that looks like -- oh my God.  First things first, we could start off with sexual harassment or harassment, period.  That needs to be implemented at the first start.  We teach it in Chicago Women in Trade, but that's just a pre-apprenticeship.  What we need to do is implement it inside of the unions.  You start in the union inside of the classroom because you have to go to the apprenticeship before you hit the field, correct?

 So what it looks like is putting it into some hours.  Say, for instance, we have a 15-hour OSHA class.  It's not too hard to make a five-hour sexual harassment or harassment class so when they get out in the field, they know exactly what to expect.  Right?  So that's the first thing that we need to do.

And then, once we move from the unions, then we move also to the contractors themselves, and not only giving them a piece of paper that they have an option to -- maybe you can use this and maybe not -- no.  This has been implemented inside of the unions.  We carry over to the construction.  That's zero tolerance.  We have zero tolerance for harassment and racial injustice in any form or type of way.  And once it's in writing and it's implemented, then we can take action further to go back.  So yeah.  That's how we start.

COMMISSIONER SONDERLING:  All right.  That's helpful.  Gary, from your perspective, what document could have been out there to help you know what your rights are so you didn't have to --fortunately, your girlfriend at the time told you about your rights.  But what could we have done to make a document for workers to understand?

GARY:  Well, like I said, it's in the handbooks.  It's discussed very small during orientation.  And what I think needs to take place is, like she said, like Japlan said, zero tolerance.  Spend more hours discussing it during orientation, and implement it in every handbook that's available for the construction worker so they'll know that.  It's not available on the work site.

COMMISSIONER SONDERLING:  But how does the EEOC get to you, Gary, in advance of all that?  What can we do to be more on workers' radars that employers have these obligations and you have these rights?  How could we have gotten that to you?  That's my concern.

GARY:  Give them a department beside the human resources in the construction field.

COMMISSIONER SONDERLING:  Yeah.  And I'm about to run out of time, but I want to bring Jeb in on this quickly from your perspective.  You litigated these issues.  You worked with individuals like Gary and others throughout your career, and you find discrimination.  You remedy it through the court system.  That information -- what can we do as an Agency to then take all that great information you learned and then make it into digestible guidance for employees?

MR. BOBSEINE:  I think it's a great question.  I think industry-specific guidance would be helpful that would be relatable to particular industries like the one we're talking about today.   I think that outreach to particular sectors would be incredibly helpful not only in explaining what the EEOC is and what we do but trying to communicate in an effective way about the laws that we enforce, so bringing the laws, which are this abstract concept, in a as-simple-as-possible way to the individuals who are most affected by them.

So this would be the two suggestions I have, as well as -- one of the things I didn't quite get to is identifying that a multilingual workforce is a reality of what we are dealing with here, and so not only explaining our laws in a as simple and digestible way as possible but in the language that people are most comfortable communicating in.


CHAIR BURROWS:  Thank you.  And next we'll go to Commissioner Lucas.

COMMISSIONER LUCAS:  Thank you so much, and thank you to all the witnesses on the second panel.  We really appreciate you sharing your perspectives.  I wanted to continue with the conversation with Ms. Allen.  Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and for some tangible solutions here.  If I was hearing the prior discussion right, it sounds like a major problem is fear of retaliation in terms of feeling comfortable using the grievance process or speaking up inside the workplace, retaliation specifically by the union.  Is that right?

MS. ALLEN:  Yes.  In some instances, yes.

COMMISSIONER LUCAS:  Do you have any suggestions about how the union or employers could find ways to prevent that kind of retaliation, to decrease the fear that retaliation might have, that might occur?

MS. ALLEN:  Well, yes.  Absolutely. Well, it's kind of difficult.  It's like a catch-21, right?  Because when you're dealing with a union, you're dealing with your foreman.  You're dealing with your superintendents, right?  And then, when you deal with the construction site as well, you're dealing with -- they're tied directly in.

But if it was an outside source, just a small outside source, to make sure that it's someone that if they can't talk to -- like we have Chicago Women in Trade -- when our women get into issues, they can go -- they can refer back to Chicago Women in Trade for the sisters. But the main issue that we're having really is to -- the main issues we're having with the women is basically the lack of work.

But if it was someone -- let me put it like -- everyone has a BA, a business agent, correct?  And when things go wrong on the jobsite, you can go refer back to your business agent and let them know that something's going on.   There's nothing to stop them from penalizing the guys and they're coming back and it telling you they took care of it -- lay you off.  Right?  Lay you off.  Once they lay you off, then they bring that guy back.

So what we need to do and put in place is actually have someone hold them accountable for their actions without making me feel like I'm the victim or I'm the trouble starter.  So that's kind of a hard question to ask if you're on the outside of the union.  But the EEOC is in a very great position to where, if we can make a report and something is going wrong, to see how we can handle it as a team.  That's why I wanted to say we all need to come collaborate as a team and figure out, what can we outsource for someone to go to for problems like this?

COMMISSIONER LUCAS:  I also found it really interesting and helpful, your suggestion that unions should consider having as a sort of a mandatory course during the apprenticeship process sexual harassment, racial harassment or anti-harassment, antidiscrimination training.  So is it the case in your experience that an apprenticeship program does not currently have that kind of training in general?

(Simultaneous speaking.)

MS. ALLEN:  Well, they -- oh.  Well, they put it in the bylaws.  Oh, we have sexual harassment training.  I've been a 20-year ironworker and I've been with Chicago Women in Trade for 21 years, and I've never went in and seen anyone teach it correctly.  So we don't have it.  We'll say we have it, just like -- I think as Mr. Singling (phonetic) said, oh, they have the paperwork, and they can implement it if they want to.  But that'd be the ground base.  That's the ground base and the foundation of a new start, implementing it into the hours.

COMMISSIONER LUCAS:  Oh, I think you muted yourself.

MS. ALLEN:  -- to the field, you'll know this is zero tolerance.  We won't tolerate it.  If we hear it, you'll be held accountable for it.

COMMISSIONER LUCAS:  Could putting something like that in a collective bargaining agreement be helpful?

MS. ALLEN:  It could be helpful.  There's a lot of things that's a collective bargaining, like hiring women.  And the minute we get on a jobsite and they reach their goals, I'll be there one day; two days later, I'm gone.  So that would be great to implement inside of a collective bargaining.  That would be great, that they have to -- mandatory -- have this class.

COMMISSIONER LUCAS:  What about disclosure of data?  Your testimony mentioned that there isn't currently data reporting on hours worked by --

(Simultaneous speaking.)

MS. ALLEN:  Now, that's another ball game.  I'm all for that.  So what I propose basically is, if you guys can look at the pension credits, this will tell it all right here.  Look at the pension credits for women, Black women and White men, and women against White -- Black women against White women.  You'll see how low that is. So say, for instance, I came and I'm a 20-year ironworker, right?  And he's a 20-year ironworker. He might have 20 credits.  I might have five.  That lets you know right there this is a problem between the men and the women who are working.

COMMISSIONER LUCAS:  Thank you so much.  I really appreciate it.

MS. ALLEN:  You're welcome.

CHAIR BURROWS:  Thank you.  And just so I can follow up, this has been extremely helpful. I wanted to make sure I understood you.  You mentioned earlier that the -- this is for Jazz Allen.  You mentioned that the situation with respect to retaliation for women -- that oftentimes there is a concern about not working.  And if I understand that correctly, that's because in construction, there is -- people are moving from jobs to job, and it really is not up to you as to whether or not you stay on.  Is that a fair way to say that?  Unlike other jobs where you might stay for a long term.

MS. ALLEN:  Absolutely.  It can end up being that way.  Yes.


(Simultaneous speaking.)

MS. ALLEN:  -- job, yes.

CHAIR BURROWS:  Got it.  And you mentioned as well that there was -- you mentioned unions with respect to retaliation.  Did you mean to -- I didn't hear you say that that was only with respect to unions, but I wanted to clarify it from your perspective with some of the things that you've seen, or you and other women may have experienced.

MS. ALLEN:  Absolutely.  Could you repeat that?

CHAIR BURROWS:  I just wanted to understand with respect to retaliation, you were not referencing that or suggesting that only the unions would retaliate, that there is sometimes also issues with primes, et cetera, and subcontractors as well.

MS. ALLEN:  Oh, absolutely.  Oh, absolutely.  Say, for instance, sometime they have a problem with -- here's an instance.  When you're in the bathroom -- right?  And we all know women know women have women needs, and men don't need to see women needs in the bathroom.  So we request our own bathroom, which is in a collective bargaining agreement women can have a bathroom.   Well, we don't need you to go to the bathroom too much, so now you're having a UTI because you're holding your urine because you don't want them to retaliate, think you're going to the bathroom too much.  Mind you, it might be mother nature time, right?

So now you're causing a problem because you're going to the bathroom.  And as you speak on having another bathroom, now that's also another issue.  So that company say, oh, well, she's a problem.  And they'll get rid of you.  They don't have a problem without -- so sometimes you kind of suck it up and roll with the punches.  And maybe that's not the right thing to do, but if it's inside of there someone that -- like once again I stated, that we can have something on the outside that we can talk to, maybe it would be a different situation.

But -- oh.  I'm sorry.  And then again, credits will show an inequality of the pay, the money, the time.   It's a lot.  That's all.  Yes.  Retaliation is a big issue of working, and we do have children and we do have pensions and we have credits and we have doctor bills and everything. And if he's working 30 hours and I'm working five hours, how can I reach that?  Because I figure in the future he'll be on a beach with his children playing basketball, and I'll be a Walmart greeter with the same amount of years that he has in.   And if that's not pure inequality, I don't know what it is.

CHAIR BURROWS:  Appreciate that.  I wanted to go back, Gary, to your testimony about the courage it takes to talk about some of these painful experiences, but also, you mentioned -- and I thought this was really important and wanted to circle back -- that losing focus on a construction site can be very dangerous.  And can you say more about how discrimination and harassment in construction might jeopardize the physical safety of workers, even when the harassment is verbal, not physical -- obviously, we see both -- because it tends to interfere with work in dangerous conditions?

GARY:  Right.  So, the position I was in, I was a forklift operator expediting materials to and from the building out of the lay line yard, what we consider a lay line yard  where material is stored until it's ready to be brought in to get built.  The maximum load I might be carrying at, say, any given time is 10,000 pounds or better, more or less, in between.

And I'm being harassed and being talked about over the radio in front of everybody that can hear it, and they don't know me besides from day-to-day basis of who I work with.  They don't know -- I might spaz out.  I might have a reason to spaz out.  Some people do it for no reason.  And I run into a group of people or run into the porta johns, the bathrooms, and into somebody that has nothing to do with what's going on.

That type of stuff can make you lose your focus.  And then the critical lifts -- I deal with a lot of critical lifts as well.  And my foreman, who I trust and rely on on the job site to keep me focused and keep me in the right direction due to his experience -- and he's on the radio joking?  And I lose my focus, and I injure somebody or kill somebody.  They can never go home to their family.  I can't explain what happened with that situation.  All I know is I'm possibly facing a charge behind something they found funny.  So --

CHAIR BURROWS:  Understood.  Well, I thank you for that.  And I believe my time is up.  So I think we can go to the second round of questions if that's okay.  And Commissioner -- I mean Vice Chair Samuels, that would be you.

VICE CHAIR SAMUELS:  Sure.  Thank you so much.  I have a question for Mr. Chincanchan, and that is I know that your organization works with both immigrants and non-immigrants.  And I wonder if you can tell us a little bit about the particular barriers or challenges that immigrants face in the workplace, whether, for example, there are language issues that make communication, particularly on decentralized work sites, even harder, or whether there are situations in which immigrant workers are exposed to safety hazards or other things to a greater extent than non-immigrant workers, or if the problems that affect construction workers across the board pretty much play out the same for everybody.

MR. CHINCANCHAN:  Absolutely, Vice Chair, and I think, you know, you've already identified many of those things that I think are intuitive and some of the challenges that immigrant workers face.  And, you know, for us many of our members are immigrant workers.  Many of our members are part of the Latino community, or the Black community and they -- the advocacy that we do alongside those immigrant workers are not always necessarily focused on immigrant workers.  I mean, we -- you know, I think one of the principles that we believe in is that a rising tide lifts all boats. 

And so certainly we address issues with the construction industry at large, but I think in my written testimony and some of the words that I have said I think what I wanted to focus on was circumstances that really exacerbate the issues that we all recognize are present. 

And of course, you know, the best example we have of that is the pandemic.  You know, in our state, like in many states, while the effects of the pandemic were felt, construction work was deemed as essential, but the workers that were asked to go and still show up to those job sites and do their work under even more dangerous conditions just weren't given any of the essential protections that they needed to be able to keep themselves or their families safe.  And so, you know, many workers did speak out about that. 

And so, for immigrant workers in particular speaking out becomes a lot more dangerous and challenging.  We hear stories from our members who have experienced wage theft and other forms of discrimination that are afraid to pursue any kind of action, you know?  We of course have been talking about how there are agencies set up to help investigate these cases and, you know, to help recover wages and things like that, but oftentimes we hear from immigrant workers in particular that, like other workers, they're threatened with retaliation. 

But for many immigrant workers who are in a more vulnerable position, you know, that retaliation includes threats of deportation for themselves and their family.  And so it's a situation where it's the same issue that affect other workers in the construction industry, but it is just exacerbated by the position that they are in.  And so I think that fear of retaliation is very real when it comes to the -- what they experience in the industry.

VICE CHAIR SAMUELS:  Thank you for those insights.  I appreciate it.  I think I have about a minute left.

Let me turn to Ms. Wells and just say the programs that you have launched are impressive in their outcomes and I wonder if you have thoughts about how to scale them to be available in other components of the construction industry and other parts of the country?

MS. WELLS:  Absolutely.  Thank you for that question, Commissioner Samuels.

So actually our programs are -- they are scaled up.  We have over 200 programs across the country.  And I also want to highlight that just I think based off the conversation around pathways for us to deal with harassment, all the MT3 programs, they include anti-harassment training, both gender-based as well as race and ethnicity-based. 

I spent seven years in Baltimore where that's -- I ran our program up here and I taught those classes, and I specifically taught those sections as well.  And so that's part of the MT3 curriculum across the country.  And additionally, NABTU is also working with Tradeswomen Build Nations to do different forums and seminars so address that.

But in terms of building scale, we are doing just this that.  We are building the scale of our programs across the country and we're partnering with various entities to grow the Apprenticeship Readiness. 

A lot of our success is also happening with high schools.  We know that, you know, trying to get individuals fresh out of high school is one of the best ways to get a younger and more diverse workforce.

VICE CHAIR SAMUELS:  Well, thank you so much.  I have so many more questions.  I wish this conversation could go on all afternoon, but thank you to all of you for the work you do in the field and for your testimony today.

CHAIR BURROWS:  Thank you.  And now to Commissioner Dhillon.

COMMISSIONER DHILLON:  Thank you.  Ms. Wells, you're still there?  Ah, thank you. 

So as I was preparing for the hearing and waiting for the testimony to come in, I was taking a look at your organization's website and spent some time reviewing your organization's constitution and bylaws, which seem to be pretty comprehensive documents.  Looks like they're periodically updated; as a former corporate lawyer, that's good practice, and lists out various obligations that your organization has undertaken: qualifications to be an officer, obligations of officers, duties of trustees.  And then the actual text of the pledge that officers need to take I assume to be eligible to take that office.

But nowhere in any of these documents could I find any reference to a commitment on the part of the organization or the individuals who hold these roles to not engage in discriminatory behavior, harassment, or retaliation.  And I was wondering why it isn't there.

MS. WELLS:  So I would have to take a look at what you're referring to.  I do know over the years I have been a part of applying for several grants at the national level and local level and I do know that we have included that language in our grants.  So I'd have to take a look at the actual documents, but it's my understanding that we have on record, public record, that we do, you know, encourage diversity and participation.  But I don't know the documents that you're referring to specifically, so it's hard for me to respond to that.

COMMISSIONER DHILLON:  Well, might be something to go take a look at because --

MS. WELLS:  Absolutely.

COMMISSIONER DHILLON:  -- if you make a commitment, there's something that people can hold you accountable to.

I also would be interested -- we've been talking with Ms. Allen about the union grievance procedure and the potential role that that could play in mitigating circumstances of workplace harassment and retaliation.  And I was interested in your thoughts in what could be done there, Ms. Wells.

MS. WELLS:  Sorry, I thought you were going to Ms. Allen. 

So I -- what I would say is that just kind of providing some more context to that conversation, we have anti-discrimination language and commitments by our international and also by various counsels and locals.  I believe that -- you know, and we're really happy to be a part of this conversation because we do understand that you do have bad actors and that that's where entities like EEOC and our State Department of Labor and Federal Labor -- that they're really important in terms of creating the oversight and also helping implement different initiatives to address those grievances, and also address discrimination. 

And so that's where we are really looking to partner with EEOC so that we can also be a part of, you know, one, helping ensure that our counsels are being held up to the standard that the national building trades believes  is important.  And we have also shared with them that these are the standards that they should be upholding and that we will use every tool possible to ensure that that does happen.

COMMISSIONER DHILLON:  Thank you.  I think I'm probably coming close to the end of my time, so I just wanted to thank all of the witnesses who have appeared here today to give testimony.  Kind of in the spirit of disclosure following Commissioner Lucas' lead, my -- one of my grandfathers was a plumber after he served his country in World War II. 

And my father-in-law actually owned a construction business.  He started that business and it was a tremendous opportunity that was available to him as a son of Mexican and Indian immigrants to be able to start his own business and support himself as an entrepreneur. 

And while I understand that the purpose of this hearing is to shed light on shortcomings in this industry, I don't want to paint too broad of a brush and I don't want to lose sight of the fact that there are many, many, many honorable people who go to work in this industry every single day.  They perform their work well.  They perform their work honorably and with a great deal of skill and dedication and that we all owe them a debt of gratitude.  Every time we drive on a road, we walk into a building, we go to a shopping mall it's their hard work that makes all those things that perhaps we take for granted possible.  So thank you.

CHAIR BURROWS:  Thank you.  And now we can go to Commissioner Sonderling.


We'll just stay with Melissa briefly.  So -- wait for you to get on the screen there.  Okay.

I have a lot of experience with your organization.  When I was at Department of Labor I'd have quarterly meetings at your headquarters and really had a lot of engagement when it came to Davis-Bacon surveys, wage rates and everything related to the core.  And not just at the Wage and Hour Division, but at the Employment Training Administration Assistance, ETA.  With the apprenticeships I know there's a lot of interaction there.

I'm curious now, and obviously you're testing here, and I hope we have that same relationship as DOL here moving forward, what other engagement -- you know, so focused on an OSHA, on the apprenticeships and the wages, but as far as in the discrimination context historically what have you all done with the EEOC and the Office of Federal Contract Compliance at DOL and what is your plan to work with us and OCCP more in this space as infrastructure money comes in and more federally-funded projects occur?  I was just curious about what your -- the agency's plan is now, because before I know it was so focused on the core long-standing partnership with Department of Labor.

MS. WELLS:  Sure.  So forgive me, I don't have all the context in terms of all of those -- the conversations, but what I will tell you though I think in terms of the spirit of those agencies and in the spirit of the building trades is that we will continue to prioritize diversifying our workforce.  We will continue to, you know, create pathways utilizing the Apprenticeship Readiness Program and utilizing our partnerships with community -- community-based organizations. 

We're going to continue to work with them to make sure that we have a diverse workforce, to create a workplace that is free of harassment and discrimination, and also to make sure that we're leveraging the investment of the bipartisan infrastructure project that we are utilizing those investments to create a new generation, a new deal that is much more diverse in representation than our previous new deal that our country saw. 

So I think the spirit of that that we are of the same mission and goals of EEOC, of Department of Labor, of OFCCP, of the administration.

COMMISSIONER SONDERLING:  Okay.  Thank you very much.  I appreciate that.

And then I'll go back to Ms. Allen very briefly, if you can bring her --

MS. ALLEN:  Here we go.


MS. ALLEN:  Yes.

COMMISSIONER SONDERLING:  So with my remaining time I just wanted to first of all thank all the witnesses again for your very insightful testimony.  I appreciate your specific passion in your testimony and I just wanted to just give you the floor one more time just to have -- you have all five Senate-confirmed EEOC Commissioners listening to you and just tell us how we can take your passion and help this community as a whole.

MS. ALLEN:  That would be great.  Thank you so much for the floor.  I appreciate it.  And, wow, that's deep.  So what I'm implementing is, you know, with that being said, is I always hear people say we all need to get together and have a conversation.  We've been having a conversation since 1974, right?  My goal is to -- let's start taking action.  What is our next move?  What is our next action that we need to take as a team?  And when I say team, I mean once again the unions, the contractors, the EEOC, the laborer's union, the apprenticeship, the pre-apprenticeship.  What can we do as a team to make sure that inclusion, diversity is implemented in a way that it affects us all?

Me, myself, personally I have been a wonderful iron worker.  I have had a great experience with the iron workers being that one guy teaching me almost everything that I know, but not all the women have heard -- not all the women have had the experience that I've had, as I said in my statement. 

But to get together as a team and start action.  So the next time we do a roundtable let's say the next step, this is what we need to do.  The next step.  So basically that's basically all I really have to say.  And start holding people accountable for their actions, start holding us unions accountable for our actions, contractors accountable for their actions.  No more referrals, no more talking.  All action is basically what I really want to end this with. Action.

COMMISSIONER SONDERLING:  Well, thank you.  Come visit us in D.C. any time.

MS. ALLEN:  Any time.  Next time I'm out there, I'll hold you to that.

CHAIR BURROWS:  All right.  So now we have Commissioner Lucas.

COMMISSIONER LUCAS:  Thank you.  And I wanted to continue on that conversation that Ms. Allen touched on at the end of the prior discussion I believe with Commissioner Dhillon, or perhaps it was with Commissioner Sonderling.

But you were talking a little bit about physical safety for women in construction sites.  And so just sort of following on this discussion about action that we can do.

Obviously construction sites are not the same as an office building in terms of the kinds of safety considerations you might have, so what are some sort of tangible ways that we could help structurally make those environments safer for women on a construction site?  For example, access to bathrooms or any other sort of safety-related measures to prevent harassment that might turn into violence.

MS. ALLEN:  Oh, let's see.  Well, the first thing we can all do is get somebody up there that actually can relate to what's going on because it's easy for us to sit on this side and all of this is happening and that happened, but if you have somebody there that can relate literally to what's going on and teaming up with pre-apprenticeships -- well, Chicago Women in Trade has had millions of women come through their door and hundreds of thousands having been retained.  What we could do better is -- oh, wow, this is deep -- is get someone that can relate to what's going on in the field, put it down in writing, implement it in the side of the -- the word I'm looking for is not coming to me right now, but put it aside of the -- I can't remember this word.  Oh, my goodness.  Sorry.


MS. ALLEN:  Yes, please.  And I think that's the better way to start.  That will be a start.  Starting -- do action.  This is what we're going to do.  We're going to make sure that women have correct bathrooms.  I mean, the locker -- the locker room noise is locker room noise, right?  We all have brothers, we all have this.  Sometime -- this is a male-dominated field and it is respected as that way.

But to -- for the diversity and inclusion to go on and to teach our women at - like we do it -- well, Chicago Women in -- I want to be clear.  Chicago Women in Trade, because we do -- we also have a 12-week program that you guys are all familiar with.  But inside this -- this 12-week program we also teach our women how to exercise their rights, how to be safe, not how to speak to the men, but how to survive and thrive in this male-dominated field by just doing their job, right?

So if we -- ah, there's so much in my brain, I can't even get it out.  So if we could just implement and start taking action on most of the things that everybody's been on this call is talking about, I think we'll get so far ahead.

COMMISSIONER LUCAS:  Can you tell me a little bit about the importance, and it is important, to have separate locker rooms or bathrooms for women on a construction site in terms of safety?

MS. ALLEN:  Yes.  No locker rooms, right?  We don't need locker rooms.  We won't go that far.  But bathrooms are very important because that's -- as I stated earlier, women have women things that they need to do.  And due to respect to men, I don't think they want to go in a bathroom and look down and see women issues, correct?  Women have -- we sit down and use the bathroom; men don't.  I don't think a woman want to go in that bathroom with all the splashes all around because men out there in the field are not like they are at home, going and use the bathroom. 

Women also, when you go into the port-a-potty, women -- we don't sit on the toilet, but you have to pull your underwear down and your pants down, correct?  It might be a pool of urine down there, unlike if you was in a woman bathroom where we understand and respect each other's boundaries and what we need to survive and thrive out there in the field.  Once we leave the bathroom, we're iron workers, we're carpenters, we're plumbers, we're electricians, we're brick layers.  So the work outside in the field is nothing to us, but certain things like that needs to be implemented.  It is -- should be mandatory for it to be a woman's bathroom. 

And I know I don't want to get off subject or anything, but it's thousands of women that are in the trades and when they start getting women and they fulfilling these goals, they might have me, one woman, and 1,000 men out there, you know what I mean?  When each trade have women in it, start implementing from that point on, not just have one woman iron worker, have a woman plumber, a woman electrician, a woman sprinkler fitter.  You know what I'm saying? 

I apologize for getting off the subject, but that tends to what happen when we have this goal that we have a 10 percent woman and the 10 percent is just me.  What happened to all the other women in the trade?  They don't get the opportunity? 

So with the bathrooms it's just giving everybody a opportunity to be included in the work field because we women out here are badass.  And I know it's a lot of women in Chicago Women of Trade.  You come out there and see us and we'll show you we're badass out here and we just want the same opportunities that everyone else get in the field.  We deserve that easy road.  I know I'm badass.  I'll tell you that right now.

COMMISSIONER LUCAS:  Well again, I echo Commissioner Sonderling, just praising you for your passion and extend to everyone on the panel and last panel that you're always welcome to visit us in D.C., and I hope that we'll be able to meet with you all if we're ever in our respective jurisdictions.  Thank you so much.

MS. ALLEN:  Look forward to it.  Thank you so much.

CHAIR BURROWS:  Thank you.  And so I will just start questioning with David Chincanchan.  Excuse me if I did not pronounce that correctly. 

But with respect to reporting and the fear of retaliation are there things that EEOC could do to make that more accessible and easier for folks?  And I'm particularly focused on the apprenticeship programs because that's our pipeline.  And anything that you could say about that and sort of making that more accessible as folks are just coming into this field would be very much appreciated.

MR. CHINCANCHAN:  Thank you, Chair.  Yes, I think that, you know, kind of builds on one of the other questions I was asked earlier when we were talking about how folks might be able to find out more and know that the EEOC exists, you know, as a tool to support workers and fighting against discrimination.

I think that awareness is a big -- is key and I think our organization tries to support the work that you all do in that way, but I think, you know, it could be like included in the curriculum for the kind of programs that you were talking about just so that as workers are about to enter that field or entering that field they are more aware of that.

And I think for us the focus really is on that fear of retaliation.  And I think, you know, this is sort of more relevant to some of the other federal agencies including the Department of Labor and DHS, but I think with them coming together to reach and understanding for how we can protect workers while they're going through a process, either through the DOL or through the EEOC, when they have either been the victims or the witnesses of labor violations, including wage theft.  I think just simply knowing that there is some level of protection for them where they're going to actually be able to carry through with this process would be life-changing for a lot of workers and would definitely factor into their decision of whether to speak out when they are facing these types of issues.

CHAIR BURROWS:  That's very helpful.  Thank you. 

I would also say that -- just want to ask others -- one thing that I thought was interesting as I sort of looked at this industry and thought about the ways in which it's different from others is that there are so many players.  So if you're an apprentice, you're in the apprenticeship, but you might be on a job site with folks who work for subs and primes and also have B that are subject to different regulators, both at the state and federal levels.

And so one thing that I wanted to ask you about more specifically is with respect to reporting.  What's the best way for us to get the word out and at what point and how would that information be communicated that this is EEOC?  Because honestly I feel sometimes when I talk to folks in the industry, to workers, it's hard to navigate the federal and state alphabet soup.  And so what does that look like if we really wanted to get some clear guidance out there, or some statements?  Where would we put it, at what stage, and do you have any other -- any suggestions along those lines for me?

MR. CHINCANCHAN:  Yes, definitely.  I think, you know, one of the things that I forgot to say in that last comment is that I know that, you know, obviously your organization is focused on kind of the technical aspect of like these cases and providing the mechanism, but I think you are also in a position to provide advice to other agencies in the Federal Government, and just the general public as well.  And so that's the thing I wanted to add to that.

But in terms of getting the word out there, someone had already mentioned this earlier.  I think language access and just is key, you know, for us.  So a lot of the workers in construction here in Texas are Spanish speakers.  We also have large communities that speak Vietnamese and other languages.  And so I think that, you know, providing materials in different languages would be really helpful.

And to answer the question about at what point, I'm not sure how to do that because I feel like it's an all-of-the-above type response.  And I think you were mentioning, you know, like pre-apprenticeship and apprenticeship programs.  And I think that would be a really great start, but also once folks are at the site, you know, we always find out that maybe workers aren't provided like appropriate OSHA training or, you know, aren't given the kind of information that is required that they receive. 

And so I think maybe working with community organizations like ours and other labor groups across the country, you know, we can come together and maybe we can think of ideas and solutions to -- to help with that issue as well.

CHAIR BURROWS:  Well, we could absolutely do that.  And I am so grateful to each of you for your time.  And I unfortunately only have a couple seconds left, so although I have so many additional questions, as do my colleagues, I'm going to leave it there. 

That concludes our presentation today of testimony and Commissioner questions.  So thank you again for your really powerful, powerful testimony.  And your insights have been absolutely invaluable. 

We at the Commission view today's hearing as the first of many conversations about how we at the EEOC can address issues of discrimination in the construction industry and work with the industry players, work with the -- both on the union side and with all the larger contractors, and small contractors, to make sure that we can ensure opportunity in the construction that's really going to be available to all.

This hearing will assist the Commission in formulating concrete plans for action to address and prevent discrimination in this important and vitally growing industry and you can expect to hear more from us on these issues in the coming months.

In closing, I would very much like to recognize the wonderful EEOC staff who worked tirelessly to prepare for today's hearing. 

I'd especially like to thank our executive secretariats and the Office of Chief Financial Officer facility staff who managed the physical and logistical aspects of this hearing.        And I owe a special debt of gratitude to our Office of Information Technology team, as well as the Office of Communications and Legislative Affairs, our Office of Legal Counsel, and colleagues in the Chair's office who worked tirelessly in this hearing, and so many others at the agency who helped make this possible. 

And of course I'd like to acknowledge Vice Chair Samuels and each of the Commissioners as well as their staffs for their support and contributions.

Finally, many thanks to the members of the public and the EEOC staff across the country joining us virtually for this important conversation.  We will hold open the Commission hearing record for 15 days and we invite those of you in the virtual audience, as well as other members of the public, to submit written comments on the subject of today's hearing.   You can learn more about how to submit comments on our website,

And with that, we are adjourned.  Thank you.

(Whereupon, the above-entitled matter went off the record.)