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Long Beach Fails to Meet Its Minority Hiring Goals

April 10, 1988|CHRIS WOODYARD | Times Staff Writer

LONG BEACH — Several years ago, city officials set a goal: By June, 1984, Latinos would make up at least 10% of all municipal employees.

The deadline came and went. And went. And went. And went.

Four years later, the city still has not met the goal. Latinos and women remain "significantly under-represented" among the city work force, according to a report issued last week.

While the city has made some progress in breaking the white male dominance over the best paying jobs, the latest Affirmative Action Program Plan shows continuing serious shortages of minorities in various classifications.

Blacks in Lower-Paying Categories

For instance, while the report shows that the city has nearly twice as many black employees as are represented in the regional labor pool, most of them are grouped in the lower-paying categories such as maintenance, crafts and clerical positions. Blacks fall short among professional, technical and protective services.

Women are overrepresented as secretaries or paraprofessionals, but make up almost less than half of the city's administrators, according to the report.

The municipal government is one of Long Beach's largest employers, yet has not had a full-time affirmative action officer since 1979, when the position was consolidated with two other personnel jobs.

Several community leaders and activists said last week that the city needs to make greater efforts to meet affirmative action goals.

"We need a climate that is conducive to women and minorities, and somebody has to make an effort to recruit and train women and minorities for entry-level positions," said Flo Pickett, president of the Long Beach chapter of the National Organization for Women. "We want to put the 'action' back in affirmative action."

Joseph Kennison, president of the Long Beach NAACP, said: "I'm not satisfied with what I see" in the city's recruiting efforts.

"We're going to increase our efforts on affirmative action," City Manager James Hankla said. "It's certainly something that's very high on our agenda."

Hankla said various city departments are targeting their recruitment efforts to try to reach out to minority groups that are under-represented. "I don't think it's a question of effort, but the direction the effort takes and how successful it is."

Police Cmdr. Kim Shelley said that his department, for instance, has a six-member minority recruitment team that visits job fairs, colleges and women's associations. The Police Department, the city's largest agency with 994 employees, has a severe shortage of Latinos, Asians and women.

William H. Storey, human resources director, said the Civil Service Commission even has a recruiter who seeks out minority candidates.

Overall, the report shows that among the city's work force of 4,157 last June, blacks held 16% of all jobs, Latinos had 9.2%, Asians had 5.4% and American Indians had 0.6%. Women held 27% of all city jobs.

Minorities have picked up 11.5% of the jobs that were held by whites when the city first started keeping figures under federal guidelines 14 years ago. Women have boosted their ranks by 9.4%.

But measured against the labor pool, all working men and women in Los Angeles and Orange counties from which the city draws its employees, the gains are not as impressive for some minorities.

Latinos make up 22.1% of the two-county area, for example, but were less than 10% of the city's work force as of last June, according to the report. In the months since then, Latino employment has risen to 9.5%, but that is still below the 1984 goal.

Asians, making up 5.4% of the city work force, come closer to matching their 5.7% representation in the labor pool. And blacks are the only minority group vastly overrepresented--16% of the city jobs compared to 8.8% of the labor pool.

The 27% of municipal jobs held by women, meanwhile, pales when compared to the 42% that appear among the ranks of all workers available for public and private employment.

Hankla said Latino recruitment has been difficult because many are attracted to jobs in private industry rather than government. Also, he said the availability of qualified Latinos in some occupations is lagging behind their growth in the overall labor force.

While Latino leaders say they are aware of the city's attempts to recruit, they say that greater energy is needed.

Jenny Oropeza, a school board candidate and past City Council candidate, said that recruiters should try to draw from California State University, Long Beach's graduating students for both women and Latinos.

Roberto Uranga, vice president of the Long Beach chapter of the League of United Latin American Citizens and also a school board candidate, said that the city "has a long way to go" although he believes that his employer, the city's Civil Service Commission, has been diligent in trying to drum up applicants.

"We've done an extensive job," he said. "The other end is who gets hired."

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