Job Concerns Sparks March Down Western Avenue

Spearheaded by a famed Chicago businessman, the march was meant to bring attention to a lack of jobs for blacks in the labor force.

About one thousand marchers shut down Western Avenue Sunday afternoon in an effort to bring attention to what they see as a serious lack of opportunity for black contractors and laborers. 

The peaceful display was largely jump started by Ed Gardner, 87, a retired Chicago businessman who made millions as the founder of Soft Sheen Hair products. He noticed a lack of black workers in area construction crews and decided it was time to take a stand. 

Starting at 95th Street and heading north down Western Avenue the street was closed off as the protesters made their way past the currently under-construction retail development which will include a Meijer and Menards.

The protests first started last week and organizers said the issue was one that affects familes across Chicago.

Read: Lack of Black Workers Leads To Protest of Western Avenue Construction Site

"They must have a diverse representation of the South Side," said Omar Shareef of the African American Contractors Association . "These are companies that are absolutely qualified."

Russell Brown came to Sunday's protest because he says he knows all to well the difficulties black workers face securing union jobs.  

"I have been a tradesman in Local 6 for 15 years and in those years I have only been able to work three years," Brown said. "Most of the time I have been out protesting and trying to get a job."

The national unemployment rate sits at 8.1 percent, while the rate for blacks is 14.1, according to the most recent figures

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Daniel Malloy October 01, 2012 at 08:45 PM
The entire project is being built by numerous different races and ethnicities!! Arguing for 50% African American labor is ridiculous. Then let's argue for 50% Hispanic labor. 50% middle eastern labor. 50% Asian labor. 50% white labor. Keep adding 50% for every race and ethnicity and look how ridiculous this is. 1000 qualified workers want 100 skilled jobs. The general contractor and the store owner want the 100 best employees regardless of race, color, sex, or age. If everyone protesting is union then they should know the fight is with their union hall, not the fellow union brother and sisters that are actively working on the job. I am a union employee and support unions as a way of life. If you have a problem with unions or the way business is done let your union ticket lapse for non payment and take your chances as a RAT in chicago!!
Sara October 01, 2012 at 08:55 PM
racism is still a very real issue because african americans like to throw in the race card and the alot of the black neighborhoods in Chicago are horrible. They are full of violence and people getting shot. Then we have this problem in Beverly where alot of the major crime is happend by african americans. Caucasions getting jumped and robbed.
Borninol October 01, 2012 at 09:17 PM
I am a union electrician and on jobs with various races working along side of them. Thats why I stated earlier in this article that I can't believe there's no blacks on this job. I'm angry for this ridiculous protest and that it is on the news. Seems to me that these protesters don't know why their doing this. What a waste of everyone's time
Southside Supporter October 01, 2012 at 09:35 PM
We're lucky that this was a peaceful construction protest, check out what's happening at the construction site of Pete's Fresh Market on the West Side at Madison & Western, "The New Madhouse on Madison." http://www.chicagojournal.com/News/09-26-2012/Mobs_force_Pete's_construction_halt
Daniel Malloy October 01, 2012 at 09:49 PM
I drove by today and saw more African Americans working on the road then any other races. Actually I dint see anyone working. I saw 15 guys standing around making unions look bad. Stop bitchin start working. Honest days work for an honest days wages!!
frank October 01, 2012 at 10:42 PM
I really wish we could stop playing the race card. Obama is BLACK and he is the president. Quit your whining give up your link cards if you want to still wear brand new sneakers every day, brand New baseball hats, and spend money that you supposedly don't have on $1000 rims for your car.
Daniel Malloy October 02, 2012 at 12:08 AM
An 87 year old retired business man drives by and notices a lack of black construction workers!! What a joke. I drove by a bears game and noticed a lack of white employees on the bears. Oh wait, they only take the best, just like every damn job should. People who work hard and do a good job always seem to have a job regardless of race, nationality, sex, creed, or origin!! Put the effort you are putting into a bullshit protest into your craft, and maybe you would have a job!!
Jb October 02, 2012 at 02:30 AM
You have to be kidding me- I am so sick of this race pulling crap, it makes me sick to my stomach- it is getting old and your fathers didn't pick cotton for me. They worked next to each doing the same job- I bet we could use this race card to our advantage by polling welfare and see what the percentage of African Americans are to white Americans! I the white have the least amount of children on welfare! Y The government never fed my kids or gave them a free breakfast. We worked to take care of our children and only had as many as WE could afford to house, feed and clothe - if you spent as much time looking for work as protest you poor African Americans , you could support your family and stop complaining! This is just disgusting and so overplayed. It is time to move on
Jb October 02, 2012 at 02:33 AM
Maybe you should spend your ideal time patrolling your black gangs at Mt hope cemetery and protect us white people from your gangs!
Marksallen October 02, 2012 at 01:16 PM
As O stood outside this and other job sites it DOES become a matter of race when Black workers who meet ALL of the legal requirements CONTINUALLY see White contractors and workers from out of Illinois coming into Chicago to do work because the contractor says they could not find qualified Black workers. Its an insult, and people have a right to publicly challenge this. BUT WHY ask and depend on the consumer dollars of Black people to sustain these developments AFTER they are built and not include them in the building of the projects?
Marksallen October 02, 2012 at 01:19 PM
How can you say, you can't believe there were no Blacks on the site if you didnt go out there and SEE for yourself as many of us did, and then watch as Black workers told us that they were called from other job sites to come to that site to give the impression that the company had hired new Black workers when they did not?
RobertS October 02, 2012 at 02:25 PM
There is a lot I would like to say... If someone says they're proud to be white—they're considered a racist, if someone tries to make the playing field truly equal—they're considered a racist. From the perspective of a gay man—at least Blacks have the equality of marriage. All races and groups have dealt with prejudices but there comes a time when you have to move on and assume responsibilities; how much longer do we have to carry the burden of "racial inequality"? If blacks are so proud; why do they straighten their hair to resemble other races? No one deserves special treatment for color, sorry...
sue s October 02, 2012 at 02:43 PM
Patch doesn't report much about who is working here, but the Sun-Times has. There are hispanic, black and white workers placed on the scene. Ed Gardner, apparently thought Evergreen Park was Chicago and needed to give more poor blacks in Chicago jobs to alleviate crime. There are minorities on the job. If you are unemployed, you don't have to commit crimes to get by. We know it's rough on the unemployed, and in turn is rough on us as we are the people who live in the areas being targeted by the criminals. EP, Beverly, Oak Lawn, Morgan Park, Mt. Greenwood-- we are the surrounding area of this job site and it sounds like it's being built by a group that is representative of who lives in these communities. I respect Mr. Gardner's idea to get blacks in the city back to work to try to stop crime, but targeting this job site is not the answer. Maybe he can use some of his millions to build a grocery store in Englewood and hire the people who live around there to build it. The Meijer and Menard's development will provide lots of minority jobs once it opens.
Marksallen October 02, 2012 at 03:31 PM
Congressman Bobby Rush was on the scene as well for this site is in his Congressional District, as well as other State, and County officials and even the Mayor Of Evergreen Park who said that while this may be Evergreen Park that they do partnerships in financial incentives from the city, county, state, and federal resources in financing these projects so it was no mistake by Mr. Gardner and the ONLY reason with Gardner even came to that site from the was because of Black UNION workers who steadily watching other workers come to the site while they were right here in the community ready to work. There were many workers who LIVE RIGHT HERE in Evergreen Park, Mount Greenwood, Wrightwood etc and if we can recruit Blacks to live here then we should make sure that they can WORK on sites where they live.
Marksallen October 02, 2012 at 03:34 PM
WHO KNOWS why Blacks do things to resemble other races no more than you can explain why come Whites use vehicles to increase their lips and butts to resemble Black features, and WHY do so many other issues get put into a workers issue? These posts do so much at showing the real feelings of people who pass you everyday. I am still glad to be raising my family here and will continue to fight for the right to work where I live.
Marksallen October 02, 2012 at 03:36 PM
They have INDEED begun to move on as 15 NEW Black workers are now working on the site today and The Mayor of Evergreen Park is publicly committing to more in the same manner as he did in getting Black contractors and workers who live in Evergreen Park to work on The new Wal Mart !! Good News!
Marksallen October 02, 2012 at 03:40 PM
As one of the White construction told me without reservation that he did not believe that Black people did the same type of work that he does and that Black people should let the White people do their construction work and come back and get the customer service jobs they are only qualified for when the White work is done. I didnt respond but just moved on.
Mike October 02, 2012 at 03:45 PM
I have lived in the Beverly area since 1950, When it was all white, it was a wonderful place to grow up. Since blacks have invaded the neighborhood, I have been robbed(by blacks) three times, shot at once (by blacks)and had to have one of the nappy headed neighbors,physically removed from my mother's wake, on 105th & Western.While standing in front of my mother's casket, I was greeting people who came to pay their respect. This person of color, approached me with his hand extended as if to offer me his condolences. When he opened his mouth, he informed me he was broke and asked if I had any spare change,any extra money.Is this the type of behavor we have to put up with? There are solid black neighborhoods! Where are the solid white neighborhoods? Where do white people who don't want to live with blacks, go? Every black that moves into this community or opens a business here, is another nail in this community's coffen. Soon, people will be asking , "where did all the white people go?" Beverly will be another ghetto, just like all the other neighborhoods blacks have infested. It is a matter of time. They have already brought their crime with them, ask the police.
Sara October 02, 2012 at 06:36 PM
That sucks for you mike. Beverly is still a good neighborhood. Beverly is predominantly white. That is why white people are still here I dont think Beverly will turn into a black neoghborhood because where will all the city workers go and a lot of people who grew up here who are my age in their 30's and 20's are buying houses and wanting to live in the 19th ward and raise their families. I live in West Morgan Park. Haved lived in WestMorgan Park since the late 70's have never had a problem with being robbed by blacks or being jumped by them. But then again I don't have black families living by me. I do not have any black neighbors. alot of the crime is committed by african americans who don't live in the neighborhood. but there are some shady looking people who live in Beverly. Some of the people living on Walden Parkway are a joke.
sue s October 03, 2012 at 02:13 AM
Marksallen The article I read in the Sun Times says Mr. Gardner was asking where are the Aldermen? Where is Rahm? He mistook EP for Chicago. Not that it's not that hard to do over there-- but he is not from here. He is from 91st and Michigan. There are lots of people out of work-- union workers from the area-- of all colors. There are union guys picketing construction jobs on 79th street and 95th street. They aren't getting any exposure. The minority contractors have an opportunity to bid these jobs. They didn't get them. Nobody is saying what the reason why is in any news publication (that I've seen). But I think it's offensive to have this huge march in an area that is pretty well integrated-- NOT all black. I don't like the way this characterizes the area and I don't think 95% of the "marchers" are qualified for the jobs they are picketing. Black communities around the city are suffering from a lack of grocery stores and a lack of jobs. If someone wants to help the black community, then go to the black community and help. Stopping others from working and developing in a community that doesn't really need it, isn't productive.
Marksallen October 03, 2012 at 02:51 AM
First of all, me and my family have been residents of this area for 15 years, so I have right to voice my opinion like you or any other resident of this area. Second, if we talked "to" each other and not "at" each other, maybe just MAYBE we could hear what everybody else is saying and come to common ground without so much of this name calling etc. Next, I was with Mr. Gardner, when he was at 95th Street in Chicago and he made a press statement that many in the media missed when they caught up with him at the second site and the QUESTION was asked of him about the statement he made on the other sight and that was when he REPEATED his statement about the Alderman and Mayor for a rep from The Evergreen Park Mayor has already informed him about the different city, but that it is still in county, state and federal jurisdictions which is why Congressman Rush came for this is his Congressional District and he approves federal funds for many of the EP projects etc. Many of the marchers came from 18th, 19th Wards and of course other areas as well. Again, I as well as members if my family have been residents of this area for 15 or more years and I too know these area residents that I will continue to fight for who are qualified to work and have Union cards to show as well as other construction service site providers. Mayor of EP through his illness came to the march and made his commitment to see that Blacks in the area work on this site just as he did on the EP Wal Mart.
CB October 03, 2012 at 02:56 AM
The gang members funerals is a huge problem in our area!! Also, I heard reports that certain people from this protest were harassing the workers days before the protest to a point that many couldn't work. (And there were Hispanics working). Everyone is trying to work, don't belittle people who are working or make it a hostile environment for them just because you are unhappy.
CB October 03, 2012 at 03:05 AM
Why is it good that Black workers are now working? That just goes to show the only reason they received the job is because of the color of their skin. It is disheartening that people use the race card as a crutch. I would much rather know that the reason I was hired for a job was my qualifications not my race or ethnicity. At my current job there have been several Black employees who have been disciplined and then when fired (after given warning against certain activities such as tardiness, not calling in and not showing up to work, or being on the clock and doing personal activities such as online shopping or personal phone calls) they blame racism rather than accepting responsibility and sue the company. That is not fair.
Dave W. October 03, 2012 at 03:15 AM
Sara, please stop speaking as a representative of, well, anybody, if you are going to not be able to use anything resembling grammar or punctutaion. "...where alot of the major crime is happend by african americans." (happend!?) You sound as edumacted as those you are backhandedly (or front-handedly)disparaging.
Dave W. October 03, 2012 at 03:35 AM
WOW...veiled racism anyone? NOT veiled racism anyone? Yes, many of the things the 'concerned white people' say are true...but some of them are completely ridiculous. First of all, check your statistics; unemployment is about double that of whites. So yeah, lots of people want jobs, but some people get more of them. Not always because they are more skilled, or even cheaper, let alone both. To say that is true is ludicrous. You are neither a person with ANY knowledge of history or of sociology. Second; to say that EVERY group has had racism against them is also historically inaccurate. The Germans, the Dutch, the English, really most of the first couple of waves of Europeans that killed off the natives and established the colonies didn't face a whole lot of issues. Starting with the Irish onward, yeah, and of course there was that pesky Civil War before that, letting the 'colored folk' be free and all. Yep, they blended right in after being held captives with their families split up, the women raped at will by their masters, the men beaten to death if they dared to fight back...good thing we gave them equal rights; a hundred years later. Think is sucks to be white? I never hear anyone volunteer to go live as a black guy for even a week. Wonder why. YES, many blacks do really terrible things because of rampant, widespread poverty and a lack of famliy bonding. No, I do not give them a pass because of what happened. No, me not giving them a pass doesn't change facts. If only.
Sara October 03, 2012 at 04:41 AM
why isn't mr. gardner in a black neighborhood protesting the lack of black workers working contruction sites?
MH October 03, 2012 at 09:05 PM
Excellent, well thought out comment by Dave W. above.
Marksallen October 04, 2012 at 04:56 PM
Today, the Mayor of Evergreen Park is meeting with Mr. Ed Gardner and the two major developors and finalizing an agreement to end these demonstrations and Blacks are going to work just as Mayor Sexton did with the Blacks contractors and workers he brought to help build the Evergreen Park Wal Mart. Thanks for these posts for as resident of this area for over 15 years, I am clear now on what is on the minds of some of my White neighbors. Even with his illness, Thanks to Mayor Sexton for stepping in today.
CB October 04, 2012 at 06:30 PM
This neighborhood has always been about family and neighbors, and helping them out when no one else will. We have been a working class neighborhood learning from early on nothing comes free. When one of us needs help everyone else is there, giving as much as they can. I'm sure comments come off as 'racist' to you because that is how you want to see them. Maybe try viewing it from the point of view of people who have been laid off or denied work themselves and just had to keep applying and interviewing or take jobs some may see as below them, such as college educated individuals in janitorial roles, and see this as an easy way out for people to use their skin color to gain employment and take jobs away from other qualified people as to not cause a huge issue, because if a White man loses his job no one will rally or protest. The statements made are not all 'racist' as much as they are examples of what we all see every day that shows how some people feel entitled to things they do not need to work for, and make us question the true motives of this protest. For everyone, if you are not willing to work hard, be accountable for your own actions, accept hard times as they come, and give a helping hand to ALL of your neighbors please do not bring our neighborhood down.
John Madison October 07, 2012 at 08:28 PM
As a 45-year old college educated, white male and former resident of Chicago now living and teaching in Ann Arbor, MI, my travels throughout the world first as a military officer and than as a professor, caused me to drastically shift my racialized views. Many, not all of us priviledge whites actually believe the "work hard and pulling yourself up by your bootstraps B.S.". First, lets be clear, from Al Capone to the Daley Family Chicago wrote the book on "Gangs and Crime" and thus has always been the model of institutional corruption. Second, we live in a racialized, caste structured society where real hard work has very little to do with where you end up on the ladder of prosperity, but manipulations and machinations do. Yes, there a lazy blacks and other minorities gaming the systems, but they've learned from us privileged white folk's, many--not all--that are the masters of gaming the system and have done so since the founding of this nation using Black slaves to do the dirty work that we were too lazy to do ourselves. In America race, class and religious cards are in every deck of life that is being dealt out by corrupt Power Brokers. And whether you accept it or not, when the least of us raise hell for real equality and inclusion it benefits all the rest of us riding in the same boat, even when we're on a different deck. So open your eyes and mind and support your Black Brothers and Sisters, because their fight is truly your fight. Professor Madison


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