Chapter Member Promotes "GARDE" Award

Detroit News
Spring 1996
By: Bernard White

White Construction

The leaders of construction labor, owners, and contractors in Southeastern Michigan have been meeting monthly for over a year and have joined together to make Southeastern Michigan the best place in the world to perform construction.  One of their missions is to significantly increase and retain minorities and women in the building trades.

To implement this mission, the GARDE (Gender and Race Diversification Excellence) Awards Program has been established to recognize owners, contractors, labor, and other individuals and organizations that have made an effort and achieved the best results in increasing the employment of minorities and women in construction.

It is our hope that everyone in construction will realize the benefits of a gender and race diversified workforce as we move into the 21st century and will take the initiative to reach that goal throughout the construction industry.

It was discussed and agreed at the Labor, Owner, Contractor (LOC) Summit Meetings that we all have mutual interests in having a diversified workforce.  Some of the benefits and mutual interest are:

- Owners sell a portion of their products to minorities and women.

- Contractors need a larger workforce which will need women and minorities to meet the growth.

- Labor organizations can increase their membership and ability to meet anticipated increased work loads.

- The general public benefits by reducing unemployment taxes, social programs, crime, and increasing employment and tax bases (income, property, etc.).

The above is solid business justification for increasing the numbers of minorities and women in construction (aside from any moral justifications).

The participants in the LOC Summit Monthly Meetings are as follows:

Owner participants - include representatives from Chrysler Corp., Ford Motor Corp., General Motors Corp., Detroit Edison Co., National Steel Corp., Rouge Steel Corp., the University of Michigan, and the Michigan Minority Business Development Council.  Owners fund building projects and hire contractors.

Participants in the Contractors group include Associated General Contractors, Inc. Barton-Malow Co., Great Lakes Industrial Contracting, Inc., Motor City Electric, Power Process Piping, Walbridge-Aldinger Co., White Construction Co., and UE &C Catalytic.  Contractors submit bids to perform work, hire construction workers and see projects through to completion.

Union Labor representatives - include the Detroit Building Trades Council and the Michigan Building Trades Council, Management & Unions Serving Together (MUST), Boilermakers Local 169, Cement Masons Local 514, Electrical Workers Local 324, and Pipefitters Local 636.  There are 40,000 unionized construction workers in Southeast Michigan.  Unions provide the personnel to perform the work for contractors per the owner's requirements.

The GARDE Award is not about increasing the use of Minority and Women Owned Business Enterprises (M/WBEs).  It is, however, about providing the opportunities for minorities and women to get into the construction industry via the trades.  This will provide employment, training, and skill development.  If minorities and women are retained in the construction trades over a period of years, we will find that some will develop a foundation to start their own business in the construction industry.  So utilizing minorities and women in the construction trades is a "first step" in diversifying the construction industry.

If we continue to keep people aware of the benefits of a diversified workforce and recognize those groups or individuals that get positive results, it hopefully may not be an issue in years to come.

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