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Cleveland contractors call attention to alleged racism experienced at construction sites

Construction Vehicles
Posted at 10:24 PM, Nov 20, 2023

CLEVELAND — A display found on a construction site by a group of contractors made many in Cleveland’s black construction industry say enough is enough.

According to a Cleveland police report, a group of employees from O's Versality Construction, a black-owned company, had been completing a subcontract in what would eventually be the city club apartments. The police report explains that the group found a brown cardboard cutout hanging by a noose. Written on it are the words ‘my motivation to work’.
The police report explains the group of employees had been dealing with racist remarks at the construction site since July, and after finding the display, they did not return for fear of their own safety.

Glen Shumate is the executive vice president of the Construction Employers Association. He said that he has witnessed racism at construction sites, and many of the 500 employees he represents have reported the same to him.

“I have seen racial graffiti gender, directed graffiti negatively on construction sites," said Shumate.

This is why the Unity for the Betterment of Cleveland voiced their concern on the steps of City Hall Monday, representation from the city to local contractors standing together. 

"You decide you want to allow these types of things to happen on your job, or you want to say it’s a misunderstanding. I don’t see a misunderstanding with a noose written ‘my motivation to work’ because your motivation is building our motivation to make sure you aren’t on the site anymore,” said Ariane Kirkpatrick, CEO of The AKA Team.

News 5 reached out to Cleveland Construction, the company overseeing the project where the noose was found. A spokesperson sent the following statement: 

“Cleveland Construction is proud of our diverse workforce on our project sites. We have strong policies against any forms of racial discrimination or harassment, and we have a zero-tolerance policy against any such activity on our projects. We regularly educate everyone working on our projects about these policies through toolbox talks and other training efforts.

We recently received information regarding an alleged incident involving an employee of another company working on one of our project sites. The individual involved is not an employee of Cleveland Construction. Consistent with our zero-tolerance policy, as soon as we became aware of these allegations, we requested that the individual’s employer immediately remove the individual from the project site while we conducted a thorough investigation. We understand that actions that could be perceived as discriminatory or harassing are still unacceptable, regardless of intent. Therefore, although it does not appear, based on our initial investigation, that the alleged incident was motivated by any racial animus, we nevertheless requested that the individual involved not return to our project site. Furthermore, we immediately held a site-wide stand-down with everyone on project site to reiterate and reinforce our zero-tolerance policy against any forms of racial discrimination or harassment, regardless of intent. We remain committed to maintaining a diverse and harmonious workforce on our projects that is free of any forms of actual or perceived discrimination or harassment.”

People of color working on these sites say this is quite often the norm in construction, and leaders in the industry are working together to shine a light on it in hopes that something changes.

“Hate has no place and we need to increase equitable opportunities fair and inclusive treatment, but also its some degree of accountability before those actions happen that there’s some training and education,” said Shumate.


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