It is the Year of the Warrior. Art Douglas Blacksher is my client.
Doug is a warrior for justice. He’s fighting to make sure that what happened to him does not happen to someone else. This is his story.
Unfortunately, Doug’s story is not unique. In September 2013, over 150 Black contractors marched in San Francisco to protest the exclusion of Black contractors from the construction of the 49er’s Levi Stadium. They protested the fact that a pre-qualified list of approved contractors for Levi Stadium started out with no Black contractors. Through their advocacy, the builder, Turner Construction, opened up the process. As much as they did, it is still estimated that Black firms received only 1.6% of the contract dollars out of $1.5 billion spent on Levi Stadium.
Suing Clark Construction
The Golden State Warriors are moving from Oakland to San Francisco. That in itself is saddening. To make matters worse, the Warriors’ new stadium, the Chase Center, is being built by Clark Construction in partnership with Mortenson Construction. Doug is suing Clark Construction because he believes Clark intentionally destroyed his business. Clark’s history suggests that it does not support equal economic opportunity for Black contractors.
In November 2016, Doug attended a meeting for subcontractors convened by Clark. Doug describes the meeting as “a deja vu nightmare.” Why? Because Clark made the same promises to interested San Francisco minority businesses (MBEs) that it made to Oakland MBE subcontractors. Based on his experience, Doug believes that Clark has no intention of fulfilling its promises to MBE subcontractors.
Clark claims that it has a 50% participation goal for “small business enterprises.” We want to know if Clark’s list of pre-qualified subcontractors includes any Black, women or minority-owned businesses. We also want to know what efforts Clark made to recruit MBEs for the Chase Arena project.
The Warriors and Chase plan to spend $1 billion on the project. On February 14, 2017, the San Francisco NAACP voted to support Doug’s quest to ensure that Black contractors in San Francisco “get a piece” of the Warriors’ action.
A Shameful History of Racism
In 2009, Nina Totenberg retold the moving story of a Black contractor working in Birmingham Alabama in 1962. One of Birmingham’s largest contractors reluctantly allowed the Black contractor to bid to install windows on two public schools. The Black contractor won the bid and installed the windows perfectly. “The night before the final inspection on the first school, every window in the school was smashed. The police promised to guard the second school to prevent a repeat. But again, all the windows were smashed. Pinkerton agents brought in by the insurance company eventually concluded the police were complicit.”
Racism in the construction industry is legendary. First of all, the construction industry relies more heavily on social networks than many other industries. It is a “buddy-buddy” network, that was built to exclude Black contractors. Consequently, the construction industry was one of the first targets of anti-discrimination advocates after the civil rights laws were passed in 1964. But it was not until the 1970s that economic opportunity for Black contractors began to be legally enforced. The earliest cases attacked unions firmly committed to excluding Black workers from construction jobs.
Racism In Construction Persists
Yet, race discrimination in the industry nationwide still persists. Hence, in 1998, a Colorado Department of Transportation study found that more than 99% of contracts in the state’s highway construction industry went to firms owned by white men. (Congressional Record, May 22, 1998; S5413.)
The persistent problem of racism in trade unions nationally is described in a 2011 labor union report. Indeed, in January 2008, then Inquirer columnist Tom Ferrick reviewed trade unionists working on $500-million worth of public projects in Philadelphia in the preceding five years and concluded “these well paid union jobs … remain all-male, nearly all-white and the majority live in the suburbs.”
In 2012, it was reported that only one black-owned construction firm (Platt Construction) in Milwaukee, Wisconsin served as a prime contractor when the city awarded 125 prime contracts. One black-owned firm (Adkins Family Enterprises) served as a prime contractor in 2011, when Milwaukee awarded 100 prime contracts that year.
The Year of the Warrior
The National Association of Minority Contractors (NAMC) founded in Oakland in 1969 remains relevant today. NAMC continues to advocate for fair and equal opportunity in the construction industry. Furthermore, we expect that NAMC will soon join the NAACP and the San Francisco Black Chamber of Commerce in supporting Doug Blacksher’s war against racism. Ultimately, we also hope that the Warriors themselves, including Stephen Curry, Draymond Green, Klay Thompson, Kevin Durant, and others, will not allow racism to put a stain on their house.