Jesse Jackson asked to help black leaders in Cleveland resolve disputes over minority inclusion goals in Sherwin-Williams construction projects

CLEVELAND, Ohio — Longtime civil rights icon Jesse Jackson has been invited to Cleveland to help black leaders settle disputes over diversity goals related to the construction of Sherwin-Williams’ new downtown headquarters. of Cleveland and the Brecksville Research and Development Center.

A schedule hasn’t been set for a visit yet, but Jackson said in an interview with cleveland.com on Friday that he expects to come soon.

The request for Jackson, 80, founder and president of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition, to come to Cleveland is primarily the work of Cleveland ministers, including the Rev. ET Caviness, who represents the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in Cleveland, Jerry said. Thomas, a public relations specialist involved in the effort.

They work with the Black Contractors Group, led by its outspoken chairman Norm Edwards, which has been advocating fiercely for greater inclusion of minorities in construction jobs for years.

Both groups accuse Sherwin-Williams of reneging on a promise to include a black-owned business as a key construction partner on the company’s $600 million construction projects, but their demands appear to be at odds with the inclusion efforts undertaken by the Greater Cleveland Urban League.

News of Jackson’s involvement comes more than a week after Sherwin-Williams and the Urban League announced plans to launch what they called a “construction acceleration program” designed to “provide eligible minority-owned businesses access to capital, mentorship and other support.

“The Urban League is extremely excited to partner with the Sherwin-Williams Foundation on the Accelerate Build program, as it directly supports our economic inclusion goals and unlocks opportunity and access that will help reduce the historical barriers that minority-owned businesses face in the construction industry. and in all areas,” Urban League of Greater Cleveland President and CEO Marsha Mockabee said in a May 18 news release.

In the announcement, Sherwin-Williams cited the investment they are making, “which includes meeting or exceeding robust economic inclusion requirements.”

But the agreement between Sherwin-Williams and the Urban League “hints at a split among black leaders in terms of the approach to achieving the overall black goals surrounding the project,” a statement said on Thursday. Rainbow Push Coalition and Southern Christian Leadership Conference press release.

Thomas said the main objection of the Black Contractors Group and its supporters is that the nine companies that make up the construction and architecture team working on the Sherwin-Williams project are all white-owned.

At one point, an agreement had been reached on the selection of a key black partner on the construction project, according to the statement. “But the talks broke down and Sherwin-Williams refused to return to the negotiating table. As a result, the BCG and SCLC launched protests that resulted in Sherwin-Williams awarding some contracts to minority-owned businesses,” and protests are expected to continue until a black-owned business is removed. designated as a key partner.

The spinoffs were revealed last September. At the time, Sherwin-Williams spokeswoman Julie Young released a statement that said the Black Contractors Group’s grievance was due to the Sherwin-Williams failing to assign the full minority role of construction management to a representative of the Black Contractors Group.

The company ultimately chose to fill this role with multiple companies “to ensure the most positive and productive outcome for the project,” she added.

Later in September, Sherwin-Williams announced that it had selected five minority construction management companies to work on the project.

Asked about this week’s developments, Young sent an email response containing the names of 40 women-owned, minority-owned and small-business businesses that were added to the project in April this year.

“The actions and results of Sherwin-Williams’ deliberate approach to promoting economic equity through the Building Our Future project speaks volumes,” Young said in his response. “We will not respond to tactics from outside organizations seeking to influence our process through threats and intimidation.”

Thomas said Jackson has already been in touch with black leaders in Cleveland and others across the country interested in what’s going on regarding Sherwin-Williams. The timing of a visit to Cleveland has not yet been determined, but it will be to resolve differences between these black leaders on how best to achieve the diversity, equity and inclusion goals related to the Sherwin project. -Williams.

“I think we all want the same goals, but they come from different directions,” Thomas said.

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