Op-Ed: Open Letter To PA Williams For Support Of Open Shop Construction Workers


Dear Jumaane Williams:

Congratulations on your historic and hard-fought victory to become New York City’s fifth Public Advocate.

As you know, you will now have upon you the very weighty obligation to look out for your fellow New Yorkers. Under your guidance, the City of New York must recognize the growing shift to open shop work in the construction industry and devote more time, resources, and training to the thousands of New Yorkers who proudly call themselves “open shop” workers, who urge you to make their safety among your highest priorities as you begin this new challenge.

Construction Workforce Project Director of Advocacy Clark Peña

Open shop workers are the silent majority in New York’s construction workforce. In fact, approximately 70% of private developments in the city are now being built by these workers. And as the use of open shop expands, more New Yorkers of color are working than ever before. Industry data has shown that nearly three-quarters of workers at open shop construction sites in New York City are either black or Latino – and they actually reside in the five boroughs. Despite the critical roles they play in the industry, these workers still lack a voice to advocate on behalf of their interests.

Open shop workers have faced long histories of discrimination when attempting to access union jobs. There is still much to be done in eliminating these barriers to entry, but – as our new Public Advocate – you will have the opportunity to be a voice for open shop workers and push for desperately-needed resources.

The Construction Workforce Project is a 501(c)(3) advocacy organization driven to educate New York City on the benefits of merit shop work for historically underrepresented multi-cultural communities in our region, seeks your help on behalf of open shop workers by:

  • ensuring affordable and bilingual safety training options;
  • providing job placement initiatives for new workers; and
  • protecting the diversity of New York City’s open shop labor force

The Construction Workforce Project is committed to ensuring job security, safety, and training for all open shop workers. We hope you will join us in your new role by seeking the same commitment throughout the City of New York.

Congratulations again on your recent victory. We look forward to working with you and your team in the coming months on behalf of all New Yorkers. If we can ever be of service to you as you settle in, please do not hesitate to reach out anytime.


Clark Peña

Clark Peña is Director of Advocacy at the Construction Workforce Project. He is a lifelong community advocate who works to create opportunities for people of color and other minorities across New York State. In addition to his work at CWP, Pena also host the citywide television program, The Advocate’s Corner.