Unions Making Effort to Hire More Minority Workers - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Unions Making Effort to Hire More Minority Workers

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KENNEWICK, Wash.- Minority workers are taking the lead when it comes to the area's construction jobs.

Industry experts say state and union programs are giving minority workers a new chance to pursue their dreams.

For many, this is the first step toward the American dream; owning their own business, and leaders from local construction unions say that's becoming a reality more and more these days.

A building boom in the Columbia Basin is nothing new, but the men behind those jobs is.

Mike Keizer helps run the Central Washington Construction Trades Council.  Keizer oversees 15 unions, and says each and every one of them is making a push to hire more minority workers.

"We've had minorities in the trade for some time, but this is to the point where we are actually trying to pinpoint minorities to make applications for our apprenticeship programs and we're finding good success," he said.

Raul Estrada is one of those workers.  He's been working construction for a year.

"A friend told me about it and it sounded like a great job," Estrada said. 

For men like him, it's a foot in the door toward the American dream.  Many are building the foundation before starting their own business.

"Someday, maybe," he said.

The State of Washington is working with the unions to get more minorities involved in trade programs, even going so far as pushing for hiring practices similar to affirmative action, and the unions say they're helping as much as they can.

Keizer's been in the business 28 years.  He says that's a long career, and one that's seen a dramatic change in the employment landscape.

The unions say they expect to continue to hire more minority workers in accordance with demand, but warn they aren't hiring anyone on the main basis of them being minorities.