Years ago, black parents wisely instructed their children to avoid any conduct that could be even remotely construed as violating the law. There is ample evidence for blacks to believe that the law is not fairly applied. Parents had the foresight to understand that a criminal record would impair employment opportunities for their children.
The National Employment Law Project has determined that at least 65 million Americans have a criminal record, either for an arrest or a conviction. A 2010 survey by the Society for Human Resource Management found that 73 percent of major employers perform a criminal records check on job applicants.
According to Justice Department statistics, African Americans have been convicted of a higher incidence of crimes serious enough to warrant imprisonment. Blacks are six times more likely than whites to be incarcerated even though blacks are only 13.5 percent of the country’s population.
This racial disparity has caused the federal Equal Opportunity Commission (EEOC) to investigate some cases to determine whether discrimination is concealed behind the criminal record issue.
There is some evidence that white applicants with a criminal record will even do better in the job market than blacks who are not so stigmatized. A sociology professor at Princeton conducted a study in Milwaukee in 2001, by sending an equal number of black and white applicants for low level jobs. Only 14 blacks who had no records received call backs compared with 17 whites with records.
Employment opportunities for blacks are substantially less than those for whites. The current U.S. unemployment rate is 9 percent. However, the rate for blacks is 16.1 percent. When the overall unemployment rate was 5.3 percent in the first quarter of 2005, a time when the economy was more productive than today, the black rate was still high at 10.6 percent, twice the white rate.
The battle for parity is an endless struggle. Mere complaints will not solve the problem of an uneven playing field. The solution is for blacks to develop a strategy to enable them to win despite the field’s cant.
Working men and women and small businesses in Massachusetts have been reeling under the annual increases in the cost of health insurance. Cities and towns across the state have been forced to cut services and lay off needed personnel because of the financial burden of pension and health care expenses of public employees.
In an unexpected move, the state Legislature, controlled by Democrats, has voted to restrict municipal public union rights to negotiate co-payments and deductibles on their health insurance. Officials would still have to offer municipal employees a plan as good as state employee coverage. Unions can still negotiate over the share of the premium that employees pay.
Taxpayers have been burdened with the rising cost of municipal pay and benefits negotiated by unions that threaten to unseat at the polls any non-compliant public officials. In a surprising 111-to-42 vote, the House of Representatives voted to uphold the interests of the financially burdened cities and towns.
In an editorial of March 31, 2011 entitled “Runaway costs — public service,” the Banner predicted that excessive union demands would eventually erode public support. Now the state Senate must decide whether to capitulate to union demands or support the interests of the people and the harried cities and towns.