Our Schools, Our Futures

Making Career Opportunities with the Boston Public Schools

CLU helped youth acquire skills in the painting tradeCLU helped youth acquire skills in the painting tradeIn the fall of 2005 CLU identified an opportunity for the Boston Public Schools (BPS) to partner with us in a unique career development program. We proposed that the BPS redirect the approximately $2.5 million it spends annually to repaint school buildings (funds that in the past have been put out to bid) to establish a partnership program in which Boston residents who are professional painters will carry out the school repainting, as they train and mentor Boston youth who aspire to be painters.

We formed a Campaign Committee to develop and introduce our proposal to the City. Campaign Committee members included: ACE, ACORN, the Boston Parent Organizing Network, the Boston Teachers Union, City Life/Vida Urbana, the Greater Boston Labor Council, the Greater Love Tabernacle Church & their Future Hope Apprenticeship Program, MassCOSH, the Painters & Allied Trades DC35, Project RIGHT, Sociedad Latina, Teen Empowerment, Women in the Building Trades & YouthBuild Boston.

In the spring of 2006 collaboration with the Mayor's office we were successful in changing how the Boston Public Schools (BPS) contracts to have its schools repainted. Together we created an innovative partnership involving the Painters and Allied Trades District Council 35 and local community organizations and churches recruiting and moving Boston residents into these paint jobs. Youth participants were recruited, screened, and supported by Boston community organizations that have extensive experience with career exploration, mentoring and other supports. The participants entered a three-year apprenticeship-training program offered by the painters union, IUPAT DC 35, and their affiliated employers. The union also recruited experienced painters who are Boston residents to work on the BPS repaint jobs and worked with the BPS to assure the program’s success.

The Irving School was painted in the summer of 2006 through a direct hire program between the BPS and the Painters & Allied Trades DC35. The program required Boston residency and half the positions went to new apprentices. Furthermore, apprentices were identified, screened and pre-trained through a collaboration of community organizations including: Sociedad Latina, Women in the Building Trades, YouthBuild Boston, Project RIGHT & ABCD. Each apprentice was assigned a community mentor and a union mentor.

The Madison Park School was painted that summer by a union contractor. As a result of our organizing, the BPS agreed to require that the contractor have a successful apprentice-training program without recent suspensions from the state. These requirements, coupled with an understanding of the strong oversight we would provide on the project (checking for wage & hour violations), resulted in only union contractors submitting final bids for the work. This job used our apprentice program (though not with the same ratio as the Irving School) -- placing local Boston youth on these jobs.

The Painters & Allied Trades DC 35 came up with the initial, innovative idea and proposal for the school painting campaign. Research was integral to making the argument for change. The campaign was ultimately successful due to the diverse coalition of organizations (both community and labor) involved who advocated and organized for change.

The painting partnership continued in the summer of 2007 and CLU, the union and the school department are currently working on how to institutionalize the program for future years.