African American Leadership Forum

We Expect Better from the StarTribune

The StarTribune article on March 18, “Nonprofit paid to help with minority hiring at stadium short of goal…Workforce Is Diverse, But No Thanks to Nonprofit That Was Hired to Help,”  totally missed the mark. We expect better of the StarTribune. This story was far beneath the standards we expect from a major newspaper in a growing and diverse community.

It is no secret that Minnesota has the worst racial disparities on most socioeconomic indicators in the nation. The success of minority employment hiring on the Viking Stadium construction could have far-reaching implications for the economic well-being of our community as a whole. This begs the question of why the success of the Viking’s Stadium, which is exceeding all its workforce and business development goals for people of color, is not being trumpeted.

Rather than applauding and understanding this unprecedented accomplishment, the StarTribune squandered this opportunity to educate its readers concerning employment disparities in our cities.  Instead, it chose to unfairly castigate a well-respected African-American led legacy institution – Summit Academy Opportunities Industrialization Center (SAOIC) and its African-American leader Louis King.

Mr. Louis King, like many others, may have underestimated the actual effectiveness of Mortenson Construction, THOR Construction, subcontractors, the MSFA equity program and the trade unions; and therefore overestimated the actual needs on the project. If this is the extent of the wrongdoing or the offense, then all parties involved should be painted with the same brush, not just one person and one organization. Mr. King was singled out even though, according to the article, SAOIC was part of a “coalition” of 14 organizations and colleges.

SAOIC was not alone in its concern that the minority workforce participation goals would be difficult to obtain. Initially many questioned whether it was feasible to meet the new State of Minnesota’s 32% minority workforce participation goal. It had never been done before on such a massive scale as the Viking Stadium. The StarTribune’s recent headlines are replete with stories of publicly supported construction projects that have failed to meet even lower minority workforce goals.

Therefore, it was prudent for the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority to support an innovative collaboration of organizations to provide additional workers of color if the need arose. MSFA did this by creating a pay-for-performance contracting mechanism that ensured that no resources would be allocated unless actual workers were trained and placed on the construction site.

Contrary to the title and tenor of the article, there was no wrongdoing, no malfeasance, and no scandal committed by Mr. King or SAOIC. No public money was squandered. In fact, there was no suggestion in the article that SAOIC had not met its contractual obligations to the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority or anyone else. Yet, the story was front page news.

With just a little research, the newspaper would have uncovered that SAOIC and its coalition partners have provided training to thousands of low income people in a variety of fields. These jobs change people’s lives. They become taxpaying citizens who contribute to all of our well-being and enhance our community.

The African-American community is diverse, with multiple perspectives on any given subject. To rely on one source to represent our many perspectives is neither fair nor objective. Fairness demands that multiple points of view be provided on any given story. Otherwise, the story becomes more of an editorial opinion than objective journalism.

We seek balance and fairness when we read your newspaper. We expect nothing more, or nothing less. In this case the StarTribune fell way below this key standard.