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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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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