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Their unions are 80 percent white and 99 percent male, and the numbers are similar in other cities. Irritatingly for the Philadelphia politicians who are beholden to them, 70 percent of the building-trades unions’ members live out in the suburbs rather than in the city. Wilson Goode Jr., a member of the Philadelphia city council, has made black workers’ exclusion from the unions a key­note issue. He’s a deep-dipped liberal, an affirmative-action supporter and a conventional urban Democrat in almost every respect, but he has noticed the strange fact that progressive programs sold as tools to help the city’s largely black working class mostly end up putting money in the pockets of well-off white people in the suburbs. Philadelphia is a city with real black political power, but in a contest between a black city councilman working to secure good jobs for his constituents and the white union chieftains who have been running Philadelphia as a personal fiefdom since time immemorial, Wilson Goode Jr. found out who the boss is, and it’s not him.

Democrats defending racial discrimination by their organized-labor constituents is another. You’d think that the Democrats would put jobs for blacks at the top of their list — after all, black voters pull the “D” lever about 90 percent of the time. But political calculations are perverse things: Black voters are a cheap date for Democrats, who know that they can sell out the interests of their most loyal constituency with impunity. – The National Review – Keeping Blacks Poor

I have been studying a research study recently produced by three of researchers at the John Hopkins University, entitled, “The Long Shadow, Family Background, Disadvantaged Youth, and the Transition to Adulthood”; Karl Alexander, Doris Entwisle, & Linda Olson. The study followed 800 children (black & white) from disadvantaged neighborhoods in Baltimore, MD from the 1st grade through their late 20’s. The researchers tracked the kids, their schooling, their parents, and all of the life decisions they made during this period. And while there was many ups and downs in the lives of the participants and many common circumstances between black and white (ie. drop-out rates, minor criminal activity, etc.) there were two things that allowed the white disadvantaged participants to reach a higher level of SES (Socioeconomic Status) than their black counterparts. Now I would never try to boil down a 300 page study to two factors, but the two are quite telling in why one group succeeded and the other did not.

Based on the research, and this is very important because too often we hear opinion being offered as fact and as former Senator Patrick Moynihan said, “Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but not their own facts,” the two defining characteristics between the two were the white disadvantaged got married and was able to secure work in the building trades or manufacturing. These two factors accounted more than any others to increase their SES and their family’s standard of living.

As I have discussed in other posts marriage and family structure has continued to devastate the black community and if it is not addressed will continue to produce the generational poverty that so many suffer from today. What marriage does, even in low-income communities is that it provides stability for the children, but also the neighborhood. When a man marries and becomes employed he not only raises his own standard of living, but also that of the woman he marries and any offspring they may produce. The benefits of marriage are not only borne out in this study, but countless others and those benefits extend to the low-income as well as the high-income families. This idea that poor people can’t get married is ridiculous and another excuse for the continuing deterioration of society and the family.

But here is the real eye-opener for at-risk communities and the men who reside in them. It appears that the very politicians and representatives who are supposed to be looking out for their interests have sold them down the river. Because of union campaign donations to urban politicians they have a divided loyalty, because trade unions have historically not accepted black members they are taking money from those who are preventing their constituents from raising their economic standards. The unfortunate truth is that because these constituents do not hold these politicians accountable and continue to vote blindly for them, they are completely taken for granted.

In the early twentieth century, northern blacks and leading civil rights organizations had been deeply skeptical about trade unionism as a strategy for black advancement. They had good reason. The American Federation of Labor had an abysmal record of excluding blacks from membership and, as a result, of keeping crucial sectors of the economy all-white. The pervasiveness of discriminatory practices in unions (from attacks on black “scabs” to the separation of blacks into inferior locals to the countenancing of racially separate job and seniority lines) made unionization a hard sell. Further hindering unionization efforts, many black elites cast their lot with white employers. The Urban League, which had as its primary task expanding economic opportunities, did so by accepting close, often paternalistic relationships with corporate leaders in exchange for a small number of jobs. The key part of this bargain was opposition to unionization. Upwardly mobile black ministers often curried favor with white philanthropists and business leaders, hoping to open a few well-paying jobs to members of their congregations. In Gary, Indiana, “the churches,” lamented one clergy leader, “have become subsidiaries of the steel corporation and the ministers dare not get up and say anything against the company….” To break down the deep-rooted antiunion sentiment among blacks would require simultaneous efforts to overcome union-sanctioned racism and to wean black leaders from their dependence on white business. – Chicago Politics & City Life

As long as our politicians continue to have divided loyalties we will continue to struggle to acquire the means necessary to improve our economic lots. As the study I cited earlier states in order to advance we need those living wage union jobs and we need our political leaders to pressure their union contributors to provide equal access and opportunity to them. The best we can ever hope for as a society is to provide equal opportunity and access to all of our citizenry. We can never cleanse the hearts of every man, woman, and child nor should we. But what we can do is provide a level playing field for all Americans to compete.

At ReEngage, we are challenging the politicians, unions, and other groups to begin to offer equal access to their trades and their livable wage jobs. It is not enough to build new housing if there is no one there working to maintain and protect it. The real frustration in these communities is not the police; those are just the flash points, the real frustration is not being able to participate in the economic engine that allows men to be men and to provide for their families. To watch daily while others are able to afford the things they never can, without a career like a carpenter, bricklayer, or other trade that you can use for the rest of your life.

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