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Protesters demand more local jobs at Ferdinand

Sandra Larson | 10/24/2012, 8:29 a.m.
Protesters march on Washington Street near the Ferdinand construction site to demand more hiring of local residents. About 800 to 1000 workers are expected to put some 400,000 work hours into the project, which will create a new BPS headquarters and ground-floor retail space. The protests were organized by Priscilla Flint (in background at far right) of the Leadership Forum. Sandra Larson

Pressley and District 8 City Councilor Mike Ross authored a 2010 change in the BRJP that required greater transparency in the form of publicly viewable construction hiring reports — the reports that Flint and others now monitor in order to track BRJP compliance. And just this month, Pressley and Ross launched a working group focused on improving the effectiveness of the BRJP.

“The BRJP is a good policy,” Pressley said, “but it’s only as good as its enforcement.”

About the protests, Pressley noted that it’s only the beginning of the Ferdinand project, and only three percent of the work has been done, but said, “It’s important that we remain vigilant. These jobs need to go to Boston residents and we need to ensure those goals are being met.”

She also mentioned that with minority, female and resident hiring, policymaking is often a slow process. Lawmakers need to evaluate at every step to make sure policies do not open the city up to lawsuits, potentially forcing a step backward.

“We’re making incremental steps in the right direction to protect and strengthen the policy,” she said. “The efforts don’t immediately yield results. Our ordinance has made a difference. [But] there is a sense of urgency because people need to get to work, they need to feed their families. This is about justice by way of equity and opportunity.”

Meanwhile, the protesters say they will continue to picket daily, keeping the pressure on the city and pushing for more local hiring. On Oct. 22,  six days after the initial protest,  about the same number of people marched, but their presence was more audible with the addition of a bullhorn.

Speaking over the amplified chanting and the traffic and construction noise, Flint said she had secured a meeting for the following day with Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA) representatives. She sees that as a positive sign, but certainly not the end of the fight.

“It’s not just about the Ferdinand building. It’s about projects all over town,” she said. “I think [the protests] let the city and Shawmut know that we’re not going to let them come in and do what they want to do in our community. We have to do what we have to do. Things happen because people don’t speak up.”