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Report Shows Slight Progress on Affirmative Action Goals : Jobs: Hiring freeze in effect for half the year hinders city efforts to hire more women and minority employees.

June 10, 1993|RICK HOLGUIN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

LONG BEACH — City Hall fell short of its goals to hire more women and minorities in the past year, but city officials blame the shortfall on a partial hiring freeze brought on by tough economic times.

The city had a net increase of just three women employees for the year, when its goal was to add 102, according to the city's recently released affirmative action report. And the city added just 14 minority employees, when it had hoped to add 103.

In all, Long Beach had 4,144 full-time workers as of June 30, 1992, the end of the yearlong period covered by the report. Of those employees, 30% were women and 38% were minorities.

William H. Storey, the city's director of human resources and affirmative action, said city administrators did not hire more women and minorities because of a freeze that lasted about half the year. Only key positions, including police and fire vacancies, could be filled.

As a result, the number of city employees dropped by 65 during the year.

Storey said the city made a good effort to add more women and minorities to its payroll. Nearly two-thirds of the 228 people hired during the year were women or minorities.

Most of those gains were offset by departures of women and minority workers through normal attrition, according to the report.

But raw numbers are not the only concern. The city needs to hire more women administrators, engineers and other professionals, and police and firefighters to meet its goals, the report said.

The city's affirmative action goals also call for Long Beach to hire more Latino, Asian and African-American police and firefighters, and more Latino and Asian administrators. The city has exceeded its goal for African-American administrators.

"We still have a lot of work to do," Storey said. "We need to press forward and make sure (the city work force) is representative of the community."

The city bases its affirmative action goals on 1990 Census data that indicates the number of women and minority workers in Los Angeles and Orange counties who qualify to fill various positions.

Based on that data, Long Beach's long-term goal is to have a work force in which minorities account for 45% of the employees and women account for 43%. To reach that goal, Long Beach would have to employ 294 more minorities and 537 more women.

There are goals for specific job categories as well.

Women, for example, should fill 36% of the city's administrative positions, instead of the 28% they now hold. To meet that goal, the city would need 17 more women administrators. Some of the biggest disparities are in the category of protective services, which includes police officers and firefighters.

African-Americans, for example, should make up 19% of the police force, but they account for only 8% now. To meet that goal today, the city would need 78 more African-American officers. It also needs to add more Latino, Asian and women officers, according to the report.

Civil rights groups, complaining of police abuse against minorities, for years have called on Long Beach to hire more minority officers.

The issue came into the public spotlight in 1989 when two officers stopped African-American activist Don Jackson and a friend. Jackson, who was out to prove that Long Beach police were racist, was accompanied by a television camera crew. During a confrontation, one of the officers appeared to push Jackson through a plate-glass window. Images of the incident were broadcast nationally.

Charges against the officers were dismissed after a jury split 11-1 in favor of acquittal.

The affirmative action report went this week before the City Council's Legislation, Personnel and Civil Service Committee, which referred it without discussion to the full City Council. The council probably will consider the report Tuesday.

Councilwoman Doris Topsy-Elvord, who chairs the personnel committee, said she was still studying the report and had no comment. Spokesmen for city workers and minority rights groups said they had not seen the report.

On Tuesday, the City Council also will consider approving affirmative action goals for the next three years.

Some of the annual goals are expected to be eased. For example, the old annual goal was to increase women representation on the staff to 32.4%. The proposed goal is 30.2%.

Storey said two factors prompted officials to lower the goals. Although no formal hiring freeze is in effect, city administrators are expected to leave some vacancies unfilled after employees leave. In addition, employee turnover is lower than usual, resulting in fewer hiring opportunities.

The city will continue to send bulletins on job openings to various agencies targeting women and minorities, and hold job fairs to attract applicants, said affirmative action officer Dolores Barrows.

The number of women and minorities working for Long Beach has increased considerably since the city started its affirmative action program in 1973, according to the report.

Women accounted for about 18% of the work force compared to about 30% now. Minorities made up about 20% of the work force compared to 38% 20 years later.

Women and minorities also have made inroads to positions of responsibility and greater pay.

Women accounted for just 5% of the city's administrators in 1973, and filled 84% of its clerical positions. Women still hold the vast majority of clerical positions--86.2%--but they also hold 28% of the city's administrative jobs.

High-level women employees include Diana M. Bonta, director of health and human services, and Susan F. Shick, director of community development.

The situation is much the same for minority employees. In 1973, minorities accounted for nearly half of Long Beach's service and maintenance workers, and filled about 5% of its administrative jobs.

Now, minorities account for 67% of the maintenance workers and 24% of the city's administrators. The administrators include Henry Taboada, a Latino, who is a deputy city manager.

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