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Wednesday, Oct. 3, 2007 02:24 pm

Minority report

Report finds that minorities remain underrepresented in state hiring and promotions

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ILLUSTRATION BY TRACY COX/MCT
Untitled Document Members of racial minorities, who make up 35 percent of Illinois’ population, accounted for just 20 percent of state employees in fiscal year 2006, according to an analysis of state hiring data conducted by the Illinois Association of Minorities in Government. “Even though minorities are highly represented in the public sector, many agencies, boards, and commissions do not reflect the current demographics in Illinois,” the report states.
Jerrie Blakely, interim executive director of the IAMG, says that her organization wants fairness when it comes to state promotions and hiring and notes that the building of relationships with state agencies — as well as other advocacy groups, such as the Illinois Association of Hispanic State Employees — is necessary to maintaining a diverse state workforce. The study’s author, Samuel L. Jackson, a consultant and IAMG member, says he hopes that the information can be used as a template on which to base dialogue between advocacy organizations and state officials. Other findings, which were compiled from workforce reports of 96 state agencies include: · Overall state employment decreased by 4.6 percent, although minority employment fell by just 3 percent during the same period. · White men still account for a majority of upper-management positions; minorities are concentrated in bargaining units. · White women are three times more likely than minority women and five times more likely than minority men to be hired. · Ten agencies meet the state equal employment opportunity goal of 35 percent for minority hires. · Minorities are concentrated in five agencies: the Department of Human Services, the Department of Corrections, the Department of Transportation, the Department of Children and Family Services, and the secretary of state’s office.
· More than one-third of minorities work for the DHS. · The agencies that hire the most minorities provide direct services to communities of color. · A significant portion of all African-American men who work for the state are employed by the prison system.
One bright spot in the report: State employment of Hispanics has grown substantially in recent years. The Legislature passed the Hispanic Employment Plan in 2005 to increase access to state employment for Illinois’ fastest-growing minority group.  “If diversity is a priority for the current administration, then state government must also recognize the underutilization of African-Americans in highly skilled areas and management,” Jackson says. Similar to a labor union, the IAMG mediates disputes between its members and their employers in alleged instances of racial or sexual discrimination. If the member is not satisfied with results of the arbitration, the IAMG also may also help him or her take legal action. In recent years, the organization has also worked to pass several pieces of legislation, aimed at making the state’s hiring practices more equitable. Jackson says that he would like to work with the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus to put in place a program similar to the Hispanic Employment Plan for African-American workers.
Blakely says there’s nothing wrong with minorities serving minority communities
as long as they aren’t shut out of other
opportunities.
Anjali Julka, a spokeswoman for the Illinois Department of Human Rights, which enforces the state’s human-rights act, says that each agency follows a specified process “to establish and attempt to reach EEO goals.”
“We just want consideration for all positions and not for people to be pigeonholed into particular jobs based on their race — that’s where the fairness comes in,” Blakely says.
Contact R.L. Nave at rnave@illinoistimes.com
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