To Create Jobs, Advocates Lavish Love On Federal Contract Agencies--Gamaliel Groups in Four States Ask Officials to Contact President

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The U.S. needs billions in infrastructure improvements, and advocates are asking Pres. Obama to change federal regulations so more lower-income women and people of color can access opportunities to work on innovative public transit, water treatment and other projects that address the nation’s infrastructure deficit and prepare the country for climate change. They are calling for local officials to join them this Friday in getting the president's attention to the issue.

On Valentine’s Day, advocates from Gamaliel national organizing network will deliver candy and flowers to local and state officials, contractors associations and other stakeholders.

Their goal: change federal regulations to get construction firms to create more jobs for lower-income women and people of color to build the innovative public transit, water treatment and other projects that address the nation’s infrastructure deficit and prepare the country for climate change.

Planners, business leaders, and others estimate the U.S. needs to invest billions in the country’s infrastructure to update and render more sustainable the country’s bridges, roads and transit, water and sewer systems in the coming decade. Increased job training can insure improved infrastructure also creates more opportunities for everyone, Gamaliel advocates say. Because federal dollars typically bankroll such projects, federal contracting rules cover work done.

“We’re asking local and state officials, contractors, and other key stakeholders to send a letter to President Obama to change the regulations this year,” said Rev. Norma Patterson of United Congregations of Metro-East, UCM, based in the area around East St. Louis, Ill. “This has the potential to create the good jobs we need to get the country moving.”

Although reforms have recently been implemented to increase opportunities for veterans and people with disabilities, current rules recommend participation targets based on Census details about population makeup that is out of date. For example, the government recommends construction contractors hire about 7 percent women to participate in their projects, a figure set in 1980. The regulations also require construction companies to demonstrate good-faith efforts in hiring instead of requiring compliance with standard regulations and establishing formal plans.

Regulations are overseen by a Department of Labor agency, Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs, OFCCP. Gamaliel advocates also seek updated apprenticeship policies from the Labor Department, and want the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to monitor public housing improvements to ensure area low-income residents have a fair shot at jobs, as already required by law.

Gamaliel ( is a grassroots network of non-partisan, faith-based organizations in 17 U.S. states, South Africa and U.K. that organizes to empower people to participate in decisions affecting their lives. Gamaliel’s diverse members apply their faith and values to the pursuit of equal opportunity for all, shared abundance, and stronger, more prosperous communities.

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