Mayor Bloomberg’s three-year $130 million dollar plan to address disparities in young Black and Latino males, although laudable, is only a first step in what the city needs to do to eliminate the discrimination that working families suffer throughout New York City. This short-term, one shot deal is not enough.
To begin with, the Mayor’s plan sets up its intended beneficiaries for failure. The nation is facing a shortage of an estimated 27 million jobs – New York is no exception to this trend. Job training will prove insufficient if there are no jobs for the workers who need them. Moreover, the Mayor’s plan does nothing to address the discrimination confronting these men as they seek work. Indeed, a study conducted by the New York City Human Rights Commission found that Blacks and Latinos are less likely to be considered by employers compared to equally qualified white applicants. The Mayor’s plan does not acknowledge this reality, and also fails to consider the countless number of others struggling against discrimination.
Disparities hinder the advancement of New Yorkers of all hues – Black, Latino, Asian, female, immigrant, LGBT – and of all ages. For example, although people of color make up almost 60% of New York City’s workforce, they only account for 19% of senior and executive staff of city agencies. Women continue to earn less than their male counterparts in the workforce. And many immigrants are relegated to working in the shadows, where the pay is meager and exploitation rampant. These communities have endured decades of discrimination. A six-month investigation resulting in a short-term plan is insufficient to erase a legacy of injustice.
A real jobs creation program is needed in New York, and historical discrimination must be confronted by historic measures.
How can the City do this? One step in the right direction would be to enact the Human Rights GOAL (“HR GOAL”) bill into law. HR GOAL would require every city agency to collect data and conduct an internal analysis of how it might be under-serving marginalized New Yorkers. Each agency, with community input, would then be required to create an action plan to eliminate this discrimination. The city’s approach to jobs, policing, housing, education, to name a few examples, would all come under scrutiny. This is similar to what the Mayor performed for his plan. The key difference with HR GOAL: New Yorkers of all walks of life are included, valuable community voices are heard, and the City makes a long-term and ongoing commitment to conquering discrimination in the greatest city in the world.
HR GOAL is modeled after a similar law in San Francisco, which has garnered numerous accolades for its role in overcoming that city’s gender and race disparities. If San Francisco can do it, New York City certainly can. The Mayor’s plan is a step in the right direction. But Mayor Bloomberg and City Council Speaker Quinn should cement their commitment to ending discrimination in the long-term, and make HR GOAL law.
Alexander W. Saingchin, Esq. is the Policy and Research Coordinator at the Urban Justice Center – Human Rights Project.