DON’T ARREST ME, HIRE ME:
BUILD Gets “NO” From Mayor on Jobs Proposal for Oliver, BUILD leaders gather to strategize response
Baltimore’s residents are crying out for living wage work. Over the last three months, BUILD leaders from over 40 congregations and schools across Baltimore City conducted a massive listening campaign to ask more than 5,240 Baltimoreans about the top challenges facing their families. The number one response was jobs.
BUILD has a proposal that would put Baltimoreans to work immediately. Since July of 2013, BUILD leaders had been working with the Mayor’s office to develop a proposal to put 50 residents of the Oliver community to work in a pilot transitional jobs program that could be replicated across the city. BUILD has committed $1.2 million dollars to fund the majority of the program, and asked the Mayor to invest $594,000 over three years to get the program fully funded. BUILD has been waiting for over five weeks for the Mayor to respond with a date to meet about this proposal. “She can’t find $200,000 to invest in unemployed Baltimoreans that would come back to the City in income taxes? That’s sad,” says Mr. Melvin Wilson, leader on BUILD Citywide Jobs Team. “It’s a public-private partnership designed by the neighborhood that pays for itself. What more does she want than people taking responsibility for their own neighborhood?”
On April 8th, BUILD leaders will gather with our unemployed brothers and sisters seeking work to demand a meeting from Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake on the number one issue for Baltimore’s citizens. “We are angry with this Mayor. We are tired of what this Mayor is not doing,” says Rev. Marshall Prentice, Pastor of Oliver-based Zion Baptist Church. “So we will do what we have to do until we get a response. If she doesn’t like our plan, then what’s her plan? We’ve got to get Baltimore working and we want a meeting about it.”
No Way Forward Without Jobs
Local pastors and residents see the consequences of unemployment in Oliver – and other communities in Baltimore – everyday: crime, drug dealing, and violence. “I was recently incarcerated, and I saw people come back into prison because they couldn’t support themselves when they got out,” says Dominic Rabey, a member of Oliver-based Zion Baptist Church who is working with BUILD to make this jobs program work. “I need a job, bad. I have to work.”
Rev. Calvin Keene, pastor of Memorial Baptist Church in Oliver who has fought with BUILD to redevelop the community for years, agrees: “If you try to separate public safety from jobs, you’re going to fail. All these programs they’re looking at now are the same things we’ve done before, just with a different name. It’s time to do the hard work of looking at the big issue: jobs.”
Baltimore incarcerates the largest percentage of residents of any major American city. It costs $36,500 to imprison someone at the Baltimore City Detention Center. Through BUILD’s proposal, the City could help adults enter sustainable career paths for $11,887 per trainee. Wages paid to trainees would reinforce the local economy.
A Proposal Rooted in A Record of Success
The proposed program is based on years of successful “development unusual” by BUILD in East Baltimore. For more than a decade, BUILD has worked with The Reinvestment Fund to redevelop the Oliver neighborhood, attracting over $40 million dollars of public housing funds, decreasing the abandonment rate by 67% and raising the median income by 54%. 82% of workers employed in Oliver by TRF are Baltimore residents, and 55% are African Americans.
BUILD’s jobs proposal is different from other employment programs because it is tied to an actual job. The pilot program would serve 50 adults from Oliver and local neighborhoods over 3 years. After a brief orientation, participants would get trained on job sites, receiving tools, uniforms, a living wage paycheck at $10.69 an hour and a variety of social supports to help workers succeed. The one-year training program leads directly to apprenticeships with the International Painter’s Union. BUILD has already lined up $1.2 million to fund the almost $1.8 million program.
“BUILD’s program is real and it works,” says Tyesha Tucker of Zion Baptist Church, a leader on the BUILD Jobs Team. “It starts with a job at the beginning of the day, and at the end of the day are the supports and services to maintain that job.” By offering a living wage, this program will provide a strong alternative to the underground economy. BUILD developed this program as a strategy to reduce crime in the area while continuing to rebuild the neighborhood.
In 1995, BUILD led the passage of the first “Living Wage” in the country, a model that has now been replicated around the world. BUILD is committed to a long-term focus on jobs to create again the kind of transformational change on the number one issue facing Baltimore.
This campaign for local employment is one step in an ongoing campaign to increase real- opportunity employment for Baltimore residents. Baltimore residents do not need development as usual, construction projects flush with public subsidies and tax dollars with weak minority and local hire rates. We need public officials aggressively pursuing large scale training programs connected to the real construction jobs coming to Baltimore.