Los Angeles Black workers and anti wage theft activists have joined forces to demand that the city take action on Black workers’ economic plight.
Black, Brown, Asian and white workers marched through the streets of Los Angeles demanding that local enforcement of federal equal opportunity guidelines be added to the range of responsibilities of the wage enforcement division that was established in 2015.
The Los Angeles Black Workers Center and the Los Angeles Coalition Against Wage Theft organized a march, ending in the chambers of the city council demanding concrete action to address the fact that roughly 50 percent of L.A.’s Black workers are under- or unemployed. (story continues after video)
“We need to ask ourselves: is it even possible for Los Angeles to be the ‘world-class city’ that we aspire to be, if we continue to turn our backs on rampant inequality in our economy?” said Loretta Stevens, co-director of the Los Angeles Black Worker Center. “Our city may have made great strides recently in protecting workers’ rights,” she said, but added that there remains what she called an “equity loophole” in the fact that the legislative process skipped over equal opportunity enforcement altogether. Stevens noted that other cities, such as Seattle and Portland, have launched initiatives to address these issues. “If Seattle and Portland can work towards racial equity,” she said,”why can’t Los Angeles?”
As the city grows, such equity in hiring and other workplace practices is by no means assured. As you walk through the downtown area of Los Angeles you see many new buildings being constructed. Yet a 2015 survey of several construction worksites conducted by Los Angeles Black Workers Center found that black workers were underrepresented, not only on construction sites overall, but also at sites within or adjacent to majority-black areas.
The groups are calling for the City of Los Angeles to create a local Discrimination Compliant Resolution System within the Human Relations Commissions. They are also calling for the city to create a civil rights ordinance that will empower the city to work with federal and state agencies to strengthen enforcement of anti-discrimination laws.
During public comment, workers representing different racial backgrounds addressed the city council in support of Black workers and called for an end to job discrimination. One worker stated that as she marched by several construction jobs going on in the city, she only saw one Black construction worker.
Photo and Video: Rossana Cambron/PW