"I am disgusted that our elected officials have not taken a stand on this issue," said the Rev. Al Sharpton, speaking by phone this morning. "Is there some compromising reason?" The compromising reason, he suggested, might be that the contractor, the Laquila Group, makes donations to politicians or is otherwise close to politicians with influence.
Rev. Sharpton said he was outraged that elected officials, especially those in Brooklyn, would not strongly denounce the Laquila Group, whose foreman Angelo Sicchio routinely called black construction workers "niggers" and referred to those wearing dreadlocks as "mopheads." Sicchio also made blacks use separate bathrooms, according to testimony accepted by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
Laquila, one of the biggest contractors in the city, apparently took no action against the foreman when black workers complained. Finally the matter went before the U.S. E.E.O.C., which engineered a settlement in which the contractor has to pay out $625,000. The Daily News reported last week on the settlement and there was a follow-up blog post here on Tuesday, when Rev. Kevin McCall of Sharpton's National Action Network traveled to Brooklyn and tried, unsuccessfully, to meet with management of Laquila. The Laquila Group is one of the biggest contractors in the city. It is based in East New York, Brooklyn.
Some elected official might disagree, but many believe that this Laquila matter is of grave importance in Brooklyn at this moment. So many minority men and women are unable to find meaningful work and are being displaced from the city or forced into homelessness.
I've called the offices of almost half a dozen black elected officials in Brooklyn, including Borough President Eric Adams, and none has been willing to express even disappointment with Laquila. One had a family tell me that the elected official was looking into the matter.
As Rev. Sharpton agrees, the matter has effectively been before a jury, the E.E.O.C., and the facts are clear. It's extraordinary that a 1930s-Alabama-like work environment would be allowed in 21st century Brooklyn, with so many people of color and so many black elected officials.
I had thought that New York City Controller Scott Stringer, would be interested in this. He's always issuing reports suggesting there need to be more minority contractors in the city. Dear Mr. Stringer: If you and other officials allow this kind of racial animus to exist, why should black and brown people expect that you want to give them a boost as contractors? I've called Stringer's office maybe four times, without luck. A guy identifying himself as a press person said he had no comment and, no, he would not put me in touch with Stringer.
It's almost as if there's collusion on this. The person answering calls at Laquila has been routinely hanging up abruptly.
Rev. Sharpton says he will not let this matter fade away and will soon be discussing it on his radio program.
By the way, a New York Times article from 2006 says the Laquila Group has been linked in the past to organized crime. Could that be a reason for the reluctance to say anything? Who knows? The top guy are Laquila Group is Dino Tomassetti Jr., according to that article. It's his late father who was supposed to have had verifiable ties to corrupt people.
Hey, maybe if someone discovered Laquila foremen said improper or flirtatious things to white female employees, The Times and big elected officials would jump all over the contractor.
Anyone interested should weigh in, however you'd want.