Promoting Racial and Ethnic Inclusion in Employment

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Fifty years after the Civil Rights Act of 1964 first prohibited racial and ethnic discrimination in employment, more remains to be done to fulfill the law’s promise of integration. Discrimination continues to be a consistent feature of American labor markets. Disparities in access to education, skills, training, networks, and mentoring contribute to inequalities and occupational segregation. At the same time, changes in labor markets and unionization are having impacts on wages, conditions, and availability of employment generally, with disparate effects on workers of color. These latter changes, especially, blunt many of the traditional tools for addressing racial and ethnic inequality.

This paper argues that while litigation remains an important component of an effective inclusionary regime, jurisprudential and enforcement limitations, as well as the complexity of the challenges facing lower-wage workers, require additional regulatory solutions. The paper calls for the use of affirmative regulatory mandates to spur inclusion using government spending, procurement, licensing, zoning, and labor agreements. In particular, the paper builds on existing community-benefits agreements and “first-source” hiring requirements to describe a model of localist regulatory innovation targeted at integrating entry-level work in growth industries. This regime would include both hard and soft regulatory tools of mandated and targeted hiring, and incentives to link community-based credentialing and training institutions to institutions with capacity to hire and train workers.