New Philly committee could penalize contractors who don’t hire enough minorities

Philadelphia City Council is probing into how much work minority-owned subcontractors are getting.  

Councilman Wilson Goode’s bill would form a new committee to meet every three months with those in the construction business to keep track of minority participation.

Joanna Harris owns ARB Construction and testified at the hearing saying she wants to be sure minorities can find jobs in all the construction trades.

“When you have a minority inclusion on a contract, whether it’s private or public sector, what has happened traditionally over time they hide behind it by only hiring laborers, they are not doing the more skilled trades,” said Harris.

If the bill is approved, the committee could make recommendations to city council, or council could ban government work going to a contractor who does not hire enough minorities.

Robert Lee of the Iron Workers Union approves.

“I like the idea of punitive damages being put forth on these contractors,” said Lee.  “Because the only thing they are going to respond to is money being taken out of their pocket. It’s the only effective way to stop them from doing this.”

But since the city can’t legally require quotas for minority contracting, it’s unclear how it could determine which firms could be barred from getting government work.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal