May. 22, 2014

Recently the Minneapolis City Council President expressed concern and anger over the attention that racial equity is getting. In particular, she felt that this focus is taking up too much time and may require more cumbersome reports. HIRE Minnesota’s experience is that data and reports are important, but are only meaningful when we use them to drive a change in practice.

Here’s one example of what that looks like. Last month we met with leadership from Minneapolis’ Public Works to discuss how to ensure that people of color have access to jobs in their department. The context? Knowing that 40 percent of their workers will retire in the coming years, potentially opening up hundreds of jobs to our communities.

Staff acknowledged that their minimal effort reaching out to communities of color has resulted in a minimal number of employees of color working for Public Works. They showed a willingness to change the way they do business – from seeking input from outside the city to creating new partnerships with recruitment and training organizations—to diversify their workforce. See Council member Elizabeth Glidden discuss this meeting with other city council members in this video:

Council Vice President Elizabeth Glidden Civil Rights Committee Meeting

These conversations and commitments are the kind of change the city needs to move towards equity. We know that this work is far from over. But we’re excited to be part of processes creating real benefits for communities of color.

May. 9, 2014

Southwest Light Rail Transit is currently being debated between several entities on issues ranging from alignment to its ability to help city residents who need transit the most. Along with this debate there has been an increased focus on equity. HIRE Minnesota has had the opportunity to weigh in on employment equity principles in these discussions. We have advocated for significant investment in training and placing people of color in the workforce associated with the transit line – both in constructions jobs and beyond.

We have long known that investments in communities of color are necessary to achieve equity. As we have seen throughout the history of HIRE Minnesota, investments in job creation with an intentional focus on racial equity in employment leads to results.

Earlier this week Professor Nekima Levy-Pounds emphasized this point in a piece featured in the Star Tribune. She challenged those talking about equity to invest in communities who need it the most and to show the number of jobs being created for people of color:

“We must be willing to dig deeper and not only reflect upon the meaning of equity, but what its application should look like in practice in our region…the true meaning of equity is all about leveling the playing field. It is about coming to the realization that the racial gaps in key areas of quality of life will never close without a focus on creating jobs in our most under-resourced communities. And not just any type of jobs–but jobs that pay a living wage and that provide a pathway to upward mobility within our community.”

In other words, show us the money!

While we have seen increases in people of color in the workforce on construction projects throughout the region, more investment is needed to achieve equity in employment.

Professor Levy-Pounds’ words should serve as a wake-up call. It’s not enough to talk about equity. It’s time for real investments in communities of color and Southwest LRT is a great place to start.