LONG BEACH — City officials say they have made "excellent progress" in hiring minorities, but Long Beach has failed to meet its affirmative action goals for at least six years.
A recent report by the city's Department of Human Resources and Affirmative Action showed a steady but slow increase in the number of minority workers on the payroll, but the city still fell short of its objective. Last summer, 1,479 of the city's 4,187 employees were Latinos, blacks, Asians or American Indians--92 below the city goal of 1,571.
"We're making progress, but we should have done better," said Councilman Clarence Smith, chairman of the city's Quality of Life Committee, which reviews affirmative action hiring for the council.
The biggest failure came in the hiring of Latinos, the fastest growing ethnic group in the city. While Latinos make up at least 28% of the city's population, just 11.9% of the city's employees are Latino.
Minorities are especially scarce in top management jobs. While many of the city's 22 departments meet city goals for employing blacks, most of those workers are in blue-collar jobs. Latinos, Asians and women fare little better in acquiring management positions in city government, according to the report.
City officials blame low turnover in departments for the city's performance. "We're virtually full up, " Deputy City Manager John Williams said.
Other officials have pointed to a scarcity of qualified minority candidates.
However, community activists and union officials argue that the problem is not with a shortage of minority workers or job openings, but with the way the city fills the vacancies.
William Storey, director of the city affirmative action department, said almost half of the city's new hires are minority employees. Activists said that to make up for the lack of minorities in the work force, that number of new hires needs to be higher.
"There is discrimination in the selection of candidates," said Charles Vestal, secretary-treasurer of the local unit of the International Assn. of Machinists, which represents more than 4,000 city employees.
Figures from the Civil Service Commission show that in 1988, the most recent year for which statistics are available, there were more minority than white applicants for city jobs filled by civil service. Most of those who passed the civil service examination and were certified for openings were minority applicants.
But more white than minority candidates were finally given jobs: One out of seven white candidates certified by the civil service got a job, in contrast with one out of 12 minority candidates, according to figures in the city's Affirmative Action Program Plan for 1988-91.
"We're beating the bushes and providing enough people in terms of minorities and women," insisted Roberto Uranga, recruiting officer for the city. "But to increase proportions, the selection rate has to be a lot higher than it has been. That's the only way we'll reach parity in the work force."
Community workers and activists argue that the city needs to expand its recruiting efforts, particularly for upper-management positions. The city does not have a full-time affirmative action officer.