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Affirmative action in seattle

Affirmative Action in Seattle

Present efforts to repeal affirmative action are based on several general

misconceptions. One is that our society, having reached a point of true equality,

no longer needs programs that help government recruit and hire qualified women,

people of color, and persons with disabilities. Unfortunately, there is abundant

evidence -- from Census Bureau data and academic studies, to news accounts and

everyday experiences -- that we still have a long way to go to achieve equality

of opportunity for all social groups.

Another misconception is that affirmative action is based on quotas, and

that, as a result, the government is hiring unqualified candidates. This view

fundamentally misrepresents the reality of affirmative action in the City of

Seattle. The City's affirmative action program does not establish numerical

quotas for hiring decisions, nor does it result in the hiring of unqualified

candidates on the basis of gender or race.

What the City of Seattle's affirmative action program does is very

simple: first, it gives City managers and personnel officers a snapshot of the

labor market, so that they are aware of the availability rates for different

groups for a given job classification. Through these availability rates, the

City can determine whether or not women, people of color, or persons with

disabilities are underrepresented in a given job classification within the work

force; second, the City's affirmative action program encourages managers and

personnel officers to make special outreach efforts into groups and communities

that are underrepresented in our work force, in order to increase the number of

qualified candidates in the potential hiring pool;

Third, the City's affirmative action program directs that when there are

two fully qualified candidates for a given position, preference should be given

to the candidate that will make our work force more reflective of the labor pool

and the broader community.

Still another misconception is that affirmative action fosters "reverse

discrimination" by giving minority candidates an unfair advantage over white

candidates. However, a recent statewide study of affirmative action practices

concluded that "whites are the primary beneficiaries of affirmative action

programs affecting hiring -- this includes large numbers of white men as well as

white women."

It is also important to note that once the work force of a certain job

classification within a particular City department reaches the point where it

reflects the diversity of the available labor pool, affirmative action efforts

are terminated for those job classifications. Affirmative action is only

utilized for job classifications where women, people of color, and persons with

disabilities are underrepresented within the work force.

This overall approach has served Seattle well. It has provided a

systematic framework that has opened employment opportunities to qualified

individuals who happen to be members of groups that have experienced long-

standing and persistent discrimination. A review of the City's work force

profiles since the Civil Rights Act of 1964 clearly illustrates the dramatic and

positive impact affirmative action has had on providing equal opportunities for

more women, people of color, and persons with disabilities.

For example, in 1970, white workers represented an overwhelming 92.1

percent of the City's overall work force, while African Americans, Asians,

Hispanics, and Native Americans combined represented only 7.9 percent of all

City employees. By 1980, the percentage of ethnic minority workers in the City

work force had risen to 20.1 percent, and by June, 1994, the percentage of

people of color in the City work force reached 31.6 percent.

Moreover, during the past five years, the percentage of top City

officials and administrators has increased for all minority groups. The

representation of top officials and administrators who are African American has

more than doubled over the past five years alone, rising from 8.2 percent to

16.6 percent. The representation of women among top officials and administrators

has risen by roughly 30 percent, from 28.2 percent to 36.3 percent.

Finally, the City has exceeded its procurement utilization target for

direct voucher and blanket contracts for Minority owned Business Enterprises

(MBE).The City is currently achieving 5.58 percent for MBE contracts, well above

the 5 percent target.

As a result of these accomplishments, the City of Seattle has been

recognized as a national leader and model in affirmative action, Equal

Employment Opportunity, and diversity. Most recently, in March, 1995, the City's

Cultural Diversity Program received the City Cultural Diversity Award from the

National Black Caucus of Local Elected Officials.

Despite these very positive accomplishments, there is still much to be

done. In certain job classifications, and for certain demographic groups, City

employment does not yet fully represent the diversity of the community and the

local labor pool. Indeed, women, people of color, and persons with disabilities

continue to be underrepresented within the City work force, and Women owned

Business Enterprises (WBE) currently receive only 4.47 percent of direct

vouchers and blanket contracts, far below the 12 percent target.

For this reason, we must continue to use affirmative action programs as a

means towards inclusion, eroding the very real barriers of bias that continue to

block many Seattle residents from reaching their full potential. Affirmative

action stands as a powerful symbol of our firm commitment to equal opportunity

for all. It also affirms the City's commitment to respect and value the many

talents, skills, and unique perspectives of the community's diverse population.

In today's society, there are two ways for a person to be included as

being accepted or tolerated. But the reasons that AFFIRMATIVE ACTION uses are

too narrow in their focus and only hurt those which it tries to help. Society

needs to rid the problem not increase the effects. For example, AFFIRMATIVE

ACTION simply makes up for past losses. The diversity of problems and necessary

reimbursements are too much for an American society to try to take on at a time

that the deficit is at an all time high. One more addition to the fire is just

too much. Since the passage of 1994 additions to the Civil Liberties Act, all

that the American society has been concerned with is the discrimination. The

problem that all Americans are ignoring, is the blatant fact that every issue in

favor of AFFIRMATIVE ACTION is based on a pat experience generally not

experienced by the person crying for assistance. The only good that comes with

AFFIRMATIVE ACTION is the good it has served, and now it has overstayed its

welcome.



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