These days, it’s just something you rarely, if ever, see: African-Americans laboring within the largely Hispanic construction crews working the Gulf Coast’s heavy industrial projects.
Ricardo Charles says he knows exactly why and after 33 years in the building trade, he’s blowing the whistle.
Black and White
Charles says those who run organized, largely Hispanic crews almost never hire willing African-American laborers.
“Oh no, blacks they are out of the question. Blacks are out of the question. Nobody wants a black person in there,” Charles insisted, a Mexican-American man.
The practice of rejecting black labor is deeply entrenched discrimination which extends to white workers as well, Charles says.
These men and women are effectively cut off from decent-paying construction jobs by secretive Mexican labor gangs.
“They are afraid that white people are not going to put up with their unethical acts,” Charles explained.
He’s talking about bribes. They call it “Mordida” in Mexico, the bite.
“This is actually just like in Mexico. It’s not how much you know, it’s who you know,” Charles said.
For years, on nearly every major industrial construction site in Texas, workers have been quietly forced to pay the leaders of Mexican labor gangs hundreds of dollars up front just to obtain a job.
With each weekly pay-check, the kick backs from workers to gang leaders continue.
“It’s not only how much you pay to go in. You pay anything from $50 to $70 a week while you are in the project,” Charles insisted.