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Rev. Jesse Jackson lends his support to Cleveland Black Contractors Group in Sherwin-Williams standoff

Jesse Jackson
Posted at 5:43 PM, Jul 13, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-13 19:43:42-04

CLEVELAND — As construction continues at the Downtown site of Sherwin-Williams new $600 million headquarters, it is work that the Cleveland Black Contractors Group had hoped would have included more black owned contractors in key positions but after two years the group says nothing has changed.

"We're still exactly at where we started from," said Norman Edwards, president of Black Contractors Group. "We want a black or a minority lead contractor, which we've stated from day one, we want inclusion at the top and we want the contracts to be shown to the public."

Last fall they were joined in this fight by Dr. Charles Steele, head of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, who had company on Wednesday in the Rev. Jesse Jackson who came to Cleveland to call on the leadership of Sherwin-Williams to meet with Edwards about creating those key opportunities for minority contractors. Jackson tells News 5 he's hoping his presence helps to move the talks.

"I hope so, we had the Urban League, met with them last night and again today," Jackson said. "Their role is job training and research. Sometimes you shake the tree, the apples fall, and they take the apples and make them into jelly."

In a statement Sherwin-Williams tells News 5 they've taken considerable steps resulting "in more than 50 minority-owned, female-owned and small business firms being added to our project, and we expect this list to expand." They go on to say that "five of these firms serve in the critical minority construction management (MCM) role for the project."

They also say they "are proud that we have already awarded contracts totaling $109 million against a total commitment of $180 million to Minority Business Enterprises (MBE), Female Business Enterprises (FBE) and Cleveland Small Businesses (CSB). We remain committed to helping uplift the entire Greater Cleveland community, including delivering on the supplier inclusion and diversity commitments asked of us by the state, county and city in our economic development packages."

Edwards, for his part, takes issue with that. "They put a press release out saying that they have $108 million in contracts, that's so not true. Show the contracts so we can verify that, make it verifiable to the public," he said. "It's business as usual and until we demand the changes and stop giving them our public dollars they're going to continue to do that."

Sherwin-Williams released a list of the contractors but not the individual contracts. As the stalemate continues so too does the work at the site. With many contracts already awarded is the window closing? Jackson says no.

"It's never too late to do the right thing," he said. "Leadership needs to meet with their leadership whatever happened then break it down, let's fix it."