UPDATE: Aug. 10: Turner Construction Co. shut down its Columbus, Ohio-area Facebook data center construction site last week due to a racist incident, the second of the general contractor's projects in the state to be suspended this month for these types of incidents.
Turner said in a statement that graffiti was found Aug. 3 at the site in New Albany, Ohio, prompting it to halt construction on the $1.7 billion project while anti-bias training is conducted among staff and subcontractors.
New Albany Police found "racially charged graffiti" scrawled on six portable toilets on the site, according to Columbus Business First.
"This is totally unacceptable," Turner said in the statement. "We suspended work to send a message about how serious we take this behavior and to provide time for every single person on the site to participate in anti-bias training. Work will resume when training is complete."
- Turner Construction stopped work at the FC Cincinnati soccer stadium project this week to deal with what the general contractor characterized as two "racist incidents" perpetrated by subcontractors, according to the Cincinnati Enquirer. Turner said it removed the responsible individuals from the project and that work would resume once everyone working on the project took antibias training.
- "Turner has zero tolerance for racism and hate,” David Spaulding, Turner vice president and general manager, said in a statement, adding the unnamed persons responsible for these actions at the site "will not be allowed back." The statement, which did not provide details about the incidents, said work was suspended to send a message about the seriousness of this issue and to provide time for the training.
- Work resumed on Tuesday following almost two hours of training, according to ESPN, which also reported that one incident involved the use of a racial slur, and the other involved racist language scrawled on the wall of a hoist that transports workers between floors of the job site.
This summer has seen an uptick in the number of racist incidents on jobsites reported to construction company management and local law enforcement authorities, even as protests and marches against racism erupted around the world following George Floyd's death while in Minneapolis police custody. Ropes fashioned in the shape of nooses were found on construction sites in Las Vegas, Baltimore, Toronto and Portland, Oregon.
Since the beginning of June, what appear to be five nooses have been discovered on construction jobsites in Toronto, according to CBC Radio-Canada, in addition to the others found earlier this summer.
One of them was found at the Eglinton Crosstown light rail transit (LRT) public-private partnership (P3) project, which is valued at $9 billion Canadian dollars ($6.8 billion). Crosstlinx Transit Solutions, the Eglinton P3 consortium that includes ACS-Dragados, Aecon, EllisDon and SNC-Lavalin, told the CBC that the noose was found near where it is building one of the new system's stations.
Local police are investigating the incident and whoever is found responsible will be banned from the jobsite, according to Crosslinx, in addition to possibly facing criminal charges. Although the Toronto police have yet to charge anyone in the case, the Carpenters' District Council of Ontario told the Toronto Sun that it had asked for and received the resignation of one of its members in response to the incident.
“Local 27 denounces these acts in the strongest terms, and supports our industry employer colleagues in their swift removal of the individual,” reads a statement from the union. “Behaviour that makes anyone feel unsafe on construction worksites will not be tolerated, and accountability rests on everyone in the industry to create safe and respectful workplaces.”
While the discovery of nooses has not been widespread on U.S. jobsites, these occurrences have revealed an underlying bias within the construction industry, one that has constrained participation of Black workers, according to Kenneth Thomas, co-founder of the Minority & Women Contractors & Developers Association (MWCDA).
Thomas said there are ways to remedy that, however.
"One measure is a more aggressive and systematic implementation of minorities within the leadership ranks of the trade unions," he said, and a more seamless and transparent pipeline for sourcing minorities within the rank and file.
Another way to increase minority participation in construction projects, Thomas said, is to develop an incubator model that would help minority firms compete against their larger nonminority-owned and run counterparts, which are the mainstay of the industry.
Thomas said that as far as he knows his member firms, most of which are located in the New York City area, have not experienced incidents like those reported in Toronto and elsewhere.
As far as union trade participation, Thomas said, minorities have made inroads, but added that the demographics of those working on union projects still does not reflect the diversity of the greater New York community. He said he's willing to wager that the same could be said for other metro areas as well.