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McCann to mayor: “Don’t cancel Appendix G that hires Black firemen”

Because the Chicago Firefighters Union, Local No. 2’s contract has not yet been signed, retired Chicago Fire Department Captain Ezra McCann, late Sunday night, January 29, called on Mayor Lightfoot not to cancel Appendix G, approved in 1980 that ended the city’s Fire Department’s strike and increased the hiring of Black firemen.

Ezra McCann

“The mayor is trying to get rid of Appendix G, which has never fulfilled the 30 percent quota for Blacks. It’s not too late for Mayor Lightfoot to cut a deal with the Union and not agree to end Appendix G. All she has to say is to hire 30 percent Black firefighters. Appendix G is the law, but now that they are negotiating the contract, the mayor is trying to agree with the Union that Appendix G is no longer needed for affirmative action.

“Appendix G was put into the Union’s contract when Jane Byrne was the mayor in 1980 to settle the firefighters’ strike in 1980,” McCann told the Chicago Crusader. “Appendix G called for 45 percent minority hiring, 30 percent Black, 15 percent Hispanic. In 1980, Blacks were seven percent of the Chicago Fire Department, Hispanics were two percent.

“Today, Blacks are four percent. Our numbers have gone down since 1980, but those of the Hispanics have gone up to 18 percent,” he pointed out. “The city of Chicago has honored the 15 percent that Appendix G calls for hiring Hispanic firemen, but not the 30 percent for Blacks. The city has never been on our side, and the Union has never been on the Black firefighters’ side either. They work hand-in-hand to hire anybody but Blacks, and the numbers show this.

“It was Mayor Harold Washington, who began to use Appendix G, but both Mayor Richard J. Daley, his son, Mayor Richard M. Daley, Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the Union agreed not to use Appendix G to hire Blacks,” said McCann. “The question now is does Mayor Lightfoot feel the same?”

“There is talk about giving a new Fire Department exam, but there is no need to spend taxpayers’ money on a new exam when there are thousands of Blacks left on an existing list,” McCann stated.

“All Mayor Lightfoot has to do is to honor the 30 percent from Appendix G, which is the only part of the contract that has not been used since Mayor Washington used it. Hire those Blacks now,” said McCann. “If the Firefighters Union Local No. 2 does not agree, let them sue the city of Chicago and they would lose. Any judge looking at these numbers would throw the case out.”

“The Shakman decree has disappeared, the consent decree has disappeared, and now they are getting ready for Appendix G to disappear, and our numbers are back to where they were when I came on the Department in 1977,” he stated.

According to McCann, there are a total of 5,000 Chicago firefighters, but only 450 are Black and 250 of those can retire with full benefits,” he said.

Concerned that the number of Black Chicago firemen is still dwindling, McCann urged the mayor not to side with the Chicago Firefighters Union Local No. 2 and eliminate the contract’s Appendix G. “This was approved in 1980 with the help of Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, who helped negotiate the end of the city’s only firefighters’ strike, along with then-Captain James Winbush, Rev. George “Ed” Riddick from Operation PUSH and other great Black men. “There were no Latinos at the table at that time,” McCann said.

McCann’s remarks come on the heels of retired Captain Winbush, who was equally critical of Mayor Lightfoot for agreeing to end a federal court’s ruling that ended a 42-year minority hiring mandate.

Like Winbush, McCann also disagreed with Chief Judge Rebecca Pallmeyer of the U.S. District Court of Illinois, who last year found that minority representation in Chicago had “increased substantially since the entry of the Albrecht Decree.” McCann said, “That is not true. Our numbers have consistently gone down, while Hispanics’ numbers have gone up above the approved Appendix G 15 percent level.

“When you are Black, it’s hard to get hired on the Chicago Fire Department. It took a lawsuit for me to get hired, and it seems that is still happening,” he said.

 “Mayor Richard J. Daley refused to hire minorities in the Fire Department in 1973, even though the federal government told him he had to,” recalled McCann. “For four years the federal government withheld funds from the city of Chicago because he refused to hire Blacks. He went to the banks (to borrow money) to balance the city’s budget.

“When Mayor Daley died of a heart attack in 1976, Mayor Michael Bilandic took over and tried to use the banks to borrow money. The bankers on LaSalle Street refused to go along with Bilandic who was forced to hire Black firemen. We got hired in 1977.”

McCann said in February of 1977, two classes of about 65 percent (150) minority firemen per class were hired. When he got hired in July of 1977, he said 65 percent of the class was Black. “We were the largest influx of Blacks into the Fire Department. Then, there were only 124 Blacks on the Fire Department,” he stated.

McCann said when Mayor Emanuel was in office, the hiring of Black firemen “was worse. He kept up that negative hiring. There was one Black class in 2012 to settle the lawsuit. There were 75 in the class, five Blacks. Our numbers continue to go down, but the Hispanics got 15 percent, plus more.”

“Now, today, we have 400 Blacks in the Fire Department, but half of them can retire because they were part of the lawsuit that I put together in 1995. The federal government said you will hire 111 Black firefighters.”

McCann was referring to the class action lawsuit he filed on behalf of 6,000 Blacks. U.S. District Court Judge Joan Gotschall ruled that the Fire Department must hire 111 Blacks who passed the 1995 exam. The city had to pay at least $30 million in damages to 6,000 Blacks who had taken the exam.

McCann said 5,889 Blacks got checks for $9,800, and 111 Blacks got jobs. “The whole 18 years that Daley fought in the courts, they allowed him to continue to hire negatively. We’re losing jobs, and it’s still going on under Mayor Lightfoot.”

Larry Langford, the spokesperson for the Chicago Fire Department, did not return Chicago Crusader’s calls or emails by deadline.

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