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Monday, June 5, 2023

Black workers still last hired, first fired, and then some: Some solutions

Black workers today come face to face with traumatic employment needs. They remain underpaid, face unsafe working conditions, and too many face unemployment. Valerie Wilson, director of the Economic Policy Institute’s program on race, ethnicity, and the economy, added, “Black workers remain unhired, on average, unpromoted, and not hired according to what would signal their level of productivity calculated on their experience or their education.”  

They say when the economy catches a cold— Black folks catch pneumonia. Remember that blacks are the last hired in a thriving economy and the first fired or laid-off in an economy going south. Would you please apply all these facts to the statistics below?

Black men get paid an average wise $0.71 for every dollar spent on white men, reports Economic Policy Institute. For Black women it’s worse because women confront gender and racial issues. They get paid $0.63 for every dollar spent on white men. 

COVID-19 continues to affect Black and Latino workers adversely. Workers numbering in the hundreds of thousands continue to face lay-off notices. We know that pandemic benefits ran out as a moratorium on evictions ended September 6, 2021. The disparate racial impact of the coronavirus emanates in rooted historic low-wage and health disparities. Three primary groups of workers reside in the COVID-19 economy. They include those workers that lost their jobs, those that employers defined as essential workers, and those that continue working from the safety of their homes. You find fewer Black workers in the third group. 

Government stats concerning unemployment remain undercounted. Still, the US Department of Labor in September 2021 said that 7.7 million workers were unemployed. Why? Persons in the single middle digit millions who want a job did not get one due to not reporting their job search escapes statistics. 

Layered on top of determining joblessness, workers encounter mounting prices for necessities smothering any increases they create in wage growths. Average real wages began their decline at the beginning of the year. They declined to $8.99. Inflation increased 5.4 percent recently. For example, gas prices increased 41 percent over the past year.

Employers counter the argument of workers’ unemployment say that 10.1 million jobs remain available today. However, these jobs mean lower wages, speedups, and horrible work settings to start the negatives. The government creates its jobs programs, immigration, and minimum wage more based on big business profits.

Yes, we know President Biden’s infrastructure plan for a $3.5 human-needs project faced a bleak future at that amount. The infrastructure bill was cut more by Democrats even before Republicans’ cuts decreased the pot. According to the White House, the bill creates temporary manufacturing jobs in four years. Plus, the infrastructure budget includes large amounts for the Pentagon. 

“We thought that the American Jobs Plan was already a compromise position…,” said Yvette Simpson, the senior official of Democracy for America. “And you have Republicans pulling out even more of it.”

The House of Representatives controlled by Democrats saw $18 billion comprising low-income students attending HBCUs and other minorities serving higher education institutions. The lower House now proposes $2 billion as an example. The catch is that it works through to be awarded through a competitive grant program that places 100 HBCUs against hundreds of larger institutions that possess much more resources.

Black workers remain the ethnic group most unionized, according to the Center for Economic Policy and Research. However, the group found that union membership showed a significant drop over the years. Somewhat of an oxymoron exists. Blacks remain high in unemployment compared to whites in the labor force and over-represented in unions where wages are higher because collective bargaining exists.   

Some 4.5 million persons looked for full employment jobs. However, they had to settle for part-time employment, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. Jobs added to the workforce numbered 194,000 jobs in September, the Labor Department reported Friday met with disappointment. The numbers were well below the 500,000 analysts projected. Remember the last hired, first fired adage for Blacks.

Dr. William Spriggs, Howard University professor, resisted an age-old economics tenet that wages primarily correlate in skill differences. The disparity continues to decrease; nevertheless, the wage gap remains the same. Full-time white workers earned around 20 percent more than Blacks in 2020.

Workers need a shorter workweek with no cut in take-home pay. Sharing the work provides one way to increase employment. The need exists for a government public works program at union wages to increase employment that goes way beyond the current chaos-ridden compromised Infrastructure bill. Union-scale pay and cost-of-living adjustments are essential. Provide for continued unemployment benefits for all until you get hired. And do not leave out pensions. 

To heck with the Democrats and Republicans. An independent Black political working party to articulate the needs of Black workers remains a needed vital tool. We talk about many forms of action, from demonstrations to political education. We need proactively to address inequality, sexism, housing, and health, health for starters. Help start a union. All exist connected to employment. Many of our gains historically have been the results of our direct activism efforts from slavery to today. Include electoral politics in the mix to maintain our democratic rights. 

Dr. Morgan is a former Assistant Professor at Coppin State University, internationalist, and black rights, activist. Reach him at [email protected]

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