CLEVELAND — The Cleveland Black Contractors Group was joined by the leaders of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference Tuesday at the site of the new Sherwin-Williams global headquarters to demand the company honor a commitment they said it made last year to include minority contractors in the construction of the $600 million complex.
"They take pride in saying that they have a diversity program,” said Dr. Charles Steele Jr, President and CEO of the Conference. “But they have been meeting with the black contractors for over a year and committed to them that they will work with them and they have not done that."
The paint giant has said they are committed to hiring women and minorities for the project. Norm Edwards, head of the Cleveland Black Contractors Group, wants those to come from the list of local contractors he says the company asked for and was submitted last year.
“We want them to stick to their commitment, they made a commitment to us,” said Norm Edwards, head of the Black Contractors Group. “We don't want to hear about them hiring the fly-by-nighters, we're not going for that. They have a commitment, we gave them quality contractors that they committed to and also a monitor, and we want them to stick with that."
Dr. Steele said he came to Cleveland to help negotiate with Sherwin-Williams, but if not, he's prepared to make this a national fight against the company while making a substantial march on their Cleveland headquarters that, in his words, "will make the 1963 march on Washington look like a Sunday school picnic. We're going to bring people in from all over the world,” he said. “Black folks spend and buy paint.”
Sherwin-Williams fired back Tuesday in a statement from Julie S. Young, Vice President of Global Corporate Communications:
“We are highly disappointed and surprised by the Southern Christian Leadership Conference’s (SCLC) and the Black Contractors Group recent statements and today’s small protest, all of which ignored our inclusive approach, are uninformed by the facts and are counterproductive.
“We believe the Black Contractors Group’s claim stems from the fact that one of its preferred members was not awarded the entire minority construction manager (MCM) role. Following our established multi-step process, and after reviewing all request-for-proposal (RFP) presentations for this role were completed, it was decided to divide the MCM role among several firms to ensure the most positive and productive outcome for the project. The preferred member of the Black Contractors Group declined to accept its portion of the award. Four other minority-owned firms continue to work with us, and we expect to finalize contracts with them soon.
“We are currently in the process of awarding contracts to minority-owned businesses for several different roles including the minority construction management role. We look forward to announcing these partnerships soon once contracts are fully agreed upon and signed.”