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Protesters say minority and women hirings on SolarCity site inadequate

Michael Mroziak, WBFO

While leaders earlier this week announced that minority and women hiring goals have been met or exceeded at the SolarCity construction site, protestors on Friday complained that the numbers should have been higher.

More than 50 people gathered and lined up along the sidewalk in front of the SolarCity construction site, holding up various signs and banners. About 20 of those protestors took turns speaking, criticizing the 15 and five percent hiring goals for minorities and women, respectively. According to activists, the original goal for minority hiring was set at 25 percent. That was reduced earlier this year.

Even though hires for the construction of the future solar panel factory now exceed the contractually set goals, according to Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown, those speaking at Friday's protest say those numbers do not fairly represent the percentages among Buffalo's general population.

"If you look at the public in Buffalo, the majority of people in Buffalo are women," said Erie County Legislator Betty Jean Grant. "That number should be higher than five percent. If you look at the minorities in Buffalo that exclude women, you have maybe a 65 percent majority."

Other activists point out that 'minority' covers numerous ethnic backgrounds, including African-American, Latinos and Asians. 

Grant is calling for an independent monitor to follow hirings for the worksite, which is one of the larger projects being funded by Governor Andrew Cuomo's Buffalo Billion.

Others are demanding a face-to-face meeting with Cuomo. Charley Fisher, a former Buffalo Common Council member who now serves as president of B.U.I.L.D. of Buffalo, does not dispute the hiring numbers reported earlier this week but says this is a matter the governor needs to address.

"I was disappointed that we had the mayor come out. This is a state project," said Fisher. "We want to hear from the governor. All due respect to my good friend Byron Brown, he doesn't have anything to do with this. and he's not in a position to determine what reaches goals and what doesn't."

Michael Mroziak is an experienced, award-winning reporter whose career includes work in broadcast and print media. When he joined the WBFO news staff in April 2015, it was a return to both the radio station and to Horizons Plaza.