U.S. Rep. Emmanuel Cleaver II speaks to a Workforce Development meeting at the Laborers Local 264 union hall on Friday, May 11.
Rep. Emmanuel Cleaver praised the efforts of a Workforce Development task force and called on the minority community and organized labor to pull together.
Cleaver spoke to the task force Friday, May 11 at the Construction and General Laborers Local 264 union hall. Labor leaders and leaders from African-American churches from the Kansas City area held a fourth meeting in their effort to put young people from the inner city to work in the construction trades.
Cleaver noted that despite the fact that the nation is technically at full employment with the unemployment rate below 4 percent, many African-Americans are still struggling. He told the meeting that the unemployment rate among African-Americans is double the rate among White workers. He also pointed out that the minority community has to prepare itself. “We need people who are trained to do the work,“ he said.
The Workforce Development effort began earlier this year with the goal of uniting labor and the faith community to create a path to working for young members of the churches. To date, the effort has enrolled more than ten young men and women into apprenticeship programs with various construction trades.
Cleaver argued that minorities and labor organizations are natural allies. “Organized labor is the best means to break down the walls of discrimination,” he said.
Cleaver, a pastor himself, said the organized labor movement has its genesis in the Bible. “Moses was the first labor leader. No wages, no work. They walked,” he said to laughter and a chorus of “Amen!” from the gathering.
Cleaver concluded with a call to action. “We can be the most powerful entity in the nation. All we have to do is come together.”
The effort will come together again for a monthly meeting in June.