CRENSHAW : Group Shuts Down Construction Site

The Los Angeles Unemployed Council shut down a construction site Wednesday and Thursday, accusing the Korean management of not hiring enough blacks for subcontracting and other work.

Eight members of the minority-hiring activist group on Wednesday persuaded the six employees on the site--none of whom were black--to walk off the job at 87th Street and Broadway, where reconstruction of a swap meet that burned down in last year’s riots is under way. About 60 members returned Thursday morning and shut down the site again.

On Tuesday evening, a chain-link fence and sidewalk canopy at the site were torn down. Council President Deacon Alexander would not confirm whether the council was responsible.

“Our methodology is quite to the point,” said Alexander, a carpenter who founded the council a few weeks after the riots to ensure that enough blacks would be employed on construction and rebuilding jobs. “If you ignore us, there will be consequences.”


John Chan, whose brother, Young, is the general contractor and owner of Donga Construction, said he wants to work closely with the black community, and has hired blacks for insulation and ceiling work.

“The black community is very hard-working, and we want to cooperate with them,” said John Chan. “We don’t want any trouble.” He added that work was proceeding slowly because of recent rains and some financial difficulties. Young Chan could not be reached for comment.

Alexander said he tried repeatedly to contact John Chan when he realized two weeks ago that he had not seen any blacks on the site doing substantial work. Alexander said that the few blacks hired for security and cleanup work were not representative of the level or duration of work his group seeks for black workers. He and Chan had a similar run-in last July, when Alexander shut down Chan’s construction site at Figueroa and 43rd streets. “They hired a few of us from the council for subcontracting work but I wasn’t happy with that,” said Alexander. “They didn’t really get the message.”

Alexander said the jobs John Chan has offered to blacks are “flunky,” done only after the bulk of construction has been completed, and not long term enough to even temporarily support any of the council’s 300 members. “We’re trying to keep a lot of guys from being homeless,” said Alexander. “There are no affirmative-action guidelines private construction companies have to follow, so I have to rewrite the law on a street level. At least 35% of site employees should be black.”

Alexander, who was hired last week to do carpentry at an adjacent site, said he plans to sit down soon with John Chan to renegotiate existing labor contracts with subcontractors. “We want our fair share of union pay,” Alexander said. “If there are any growing job opportunities that blacks can fill right now, they’re in construction.”