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Second protest for local hiring held at EBDI

Nearly 100 people seeking employment at the $1.8 billion redevelopment of Middle East marched on the 88-acre site Thursday — the second protest there for jobs in two months.

Community Churches United organizer Richie Armstrong speaks to some of the approximately 100 people who marched on the East Baltimore Development Inc. site Thursday, protesting the lack of local hiring.

Chanting “If we don’t work, nobody works!” and “What do we want? Jobs!” the protesters marched around a one-mile square within the East Baltimore Development Inc. site.

There, a $184 million lab for the state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, a $60 million, 20-story tower for Johns Hopkins graduate students and a $20 million parking garage are under construction. A $40 million public school to be built on 7 acres with a majority of private funds is expected to break ground at the site in late spring.

“It is a tragedy that we have to come down here and fight for jobs in 2012,” said James Tubman, 48, who grew up at 935 E. Chase St. “Only in Baltimore City.”

Tubman, a former standout point guard for Calvert Hall College, said he recently had job training for construction work.

“I want a job,” he said, holding a hand-lettered sign.

He was not alone.

Watch video from Thursday’s protest

Another protestor, 51-year-old Aubrey Gentry, said he had recently completed a training course through Community Churches United, a grassroots advocacy group in East Baltimore.

“I’m just trying to make it,” said Gentry, unemployed for one year. “I don’t want to get run over anymore by the politics of the city. I can walk to Johns Hopkins from my house, but I can’t get a job on the construction site.”

Christopher Shea, CEO of EBDI, did not return a request for comment on the march.

The same group marched on EBDI in late December, demanding jobs. At that time, Shea addressed them and told them that if they received training, and signed up for a “workforce pipeline” run by EBDI, that their chances of being hired at the project were good.

Richie Armstrong, an organizer with Community Churches United, said Thursday that no workers had been hired or even approached for jobs at EBDI since then.

“Chris Shea said, ‘If you train them, we’ll put them to work,’” Armstrong said after the march. “That pipeline means nothing to us.”

In a three-hour meeting Tuesday night at EBDI’s headquarters in the 1700 block of East Chase Street, Cheryl Washington, EBDI’s workforce coordinator, said the group was making progress in local hiring goals.

Washington, who was unavailable for comment Thursday, said at the meeting the pipeline was started in 2007 and so far had placed 378 workers in jobs — 102 of those jobs to residents from the EBDI footprint for jobs including concrete, plumbing, electrician, carpenter and roofer work.

There are 405 residents registered in the pipeline, she added.

A total of 13 workers from the EBDI pipeline had been hired to work on the parking garage project, Washington said.

“Contractors here use the EBDI pipeline as the first source of hiring,” she said.

Of the $44.1 million spent so far on construction of the graduate student tower, $2.25 million has gone to East Baltimore firms, Washington said. The tower is slated to open 150 of its 575 beds this summer.

EBDI has refined its policy for local hiring, Washington said.

“There has been an evolution of our inclusion policy since [the graduate student tower] started,” she explained. “While you see the numbers are low, it’s because of this.”

Overall, Washington said EBDI was “learning from our mistakes” in local hiring and minority subcontractor goals.

“EBDI is blazing a trail for subcontractors and local hiring,” she said.

One comment

  1. What’s wrong with this picture. Let’s compare:
    James Rouse- Private Citizen
    EBDI- Who knows whose calling the shots
    James Rouse- Private financing
    EBDI- Tax money and private funds
    Footprint- Columbia 14,000 acres
    EBDI site 88 acres
    Columbia- 16 years to build
    EBDI- plans change every day who really knows
    Columbia- top 10 places to live in US
    East Baltimore- not on the list
    Conclusion- Get government and public tax money out of the way of people who really know how to get things done. A do gooder intends to do good but only gets in the way and causes mass chaos. This city will only continue to deteriorate and hold its people hostage as long as it tries to do something it is far from qualified from doing. Shame on us.
    Don’t let me forget about the dump truck of government regulation.