The Washington Post

Unions have come a long way


Though I appreciate­d Colbert I. King’s comparison of D.C. today with Agnes Meyer’s D.C. of 1963 in his March 4 op-ed, “Agnes Meyer’s dreary portrait of 1963 D.C. still rings true,” I took issue with his comment about unions. Mr. King contended that Meyer’s nearly 60-year-old comment that “labor unions have been just as guilty as management” for discrimina­ting against Black people in constructi­on “might be mistaken as applying to today.” That’s a wholly inaccurate portrayal of today’s constructi­on unions.

The trades have come a long way since 1963. Today’s building trades stand for creating economic opportunit­y and equality. Today’s building trades are hyperfocus­ed on grass-roots recruitmen­t and retention efforts to include not only more people of color but also more women, veterans and returning citizens.

As a Black trades unionist and the business manager of the D.C. metro area’s Plumbers and Gasfitters UA Local 5, I can attest that we take diversity and inclusion seriously. For example, 35 percent of Local 5 members are Black, and minorities account for 52 percent of our membership. Local 5 has 295 apprentice­s enrolled, of which 57 percent are minorities. We also proactivel­y recruit high school seniors of color to join our union and our apprentice­ship program. Terriea “T” Smalls, Lanham

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