In April, I wrote a post entitled Why Don’t Blacks Work at the Refinery? It was sparked by the effort Monroe Energy was making in Chester to get qualified candidates to apply for openings in their refinery. Monroe Energy never sent me a press release about their program and I knew Brion Harris probably wouldn’t want to talk about it without Monroe’s PR department’s okay, so I just watched the results from the sidelines.
Today is another instance where the Delaware County Daily Times has given me license to share a story that I am familiar with by publishing Chester Celebrates Job Readiness Program…
Harris gave the following advice to those in attendance about establishing a job history:
“You’ve got to get a work history,” Harris said. “What have you been doing? … You need to start. Do I want to live this way the rest of my life or do I want to care for my family?”
“If you’re not employed, who gives a damn where you get a job at?” Harris said. “As long as you’re making money for yourself, something legal … Then, when better jobs come along, you’re ready to take these jobs.”
Harris gave the following advice on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.:
“With the young people, social media is killing you, it’s killing you,” he said. “It’s ridiculous … If you’re looking to get hired at a job, that has to stop.”
What the article doesn’t mention is that Brion Harris is a vanguard in his effort to attract blacks back into the refinery industry. Harris has been employed there for 42 years and has seen the refinery change ownership several times, and each time a new company takes over, fewer and fewer black employees are invited to rejoin with the new company to the point where we are now with so few blacks in the refinery that it barely reflects the demographics of the community. Unfortunately, that practice isn’t unique to the Trainer refinery that was once Sinclair, BP, Conoco/Phillips (did I miss one?), and now Monroe. It happens almost everywhere.
In a bold and brave display of activism, Harris single handedly approached the leadership at Monroe Energy and voiced his concerns about the commitment Monroe has for employing blacks. This isn’t the first time Harris has stepped up with the same concern with former owners, but the folks at Monroe listened and agreed to allow Harris to go out and find the minority talent for the refinery.
In his first sweep through Chester, Harris identified Isiah (Ike) Jones who heard the call and completed the grueling process of multiple tests and interviews to be rewarded with a job offer a couple months ago. If Harris had his way, all 10 open positions would have been awarded to minorities, but I don’t believe there were 10 black applicants among the hundreds fighting for those coveted positions.
Don’t we wish there was a Brion Harris in every industry where minorities are underrepresented? Don’t we wish there were CEOs like Jeff Warmann at Monroe who are openminded enough to allow an employee to express his concerns that will improve relations with employees and the community they serve?
Congratulations to Brion Harris, Jeff Warmann, and Isiah Jones. We will not let what you three have accomplished go unnoticed and hope it serves as a model for others in similar positions.