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Walsh administration releases report on diversity in city’s workforce

Yawu Miller
Yawu Miller
Yawu Miller is the Banner’s senior editor. VIEW BIO

The Walsh administration’s first Workforce Profile Report contained few surprises.

Released last week, the report underscored the challenges the city faces in maintaining a workforce that mirrors the city’s majority-minority population. While whites make up 46 percent of Boston’s population, they hold 58 percent of city jobs. Blacks, Latinos and Asians are underrepresented in the higher-paying jobs in city government.

The release of the report, complete with pie charts, historical comparisons and comparisons to other cities, is a first for a Boston mayor. And, according to the city’s Chief Diversity Officer, Shaun Blugh, the report is a call to action.

“I look forward to working with department heads and cabinet heads on how to address these findings,” Blugh said.

According to the report, blacks, who represent 24 percent of Boston’s population, represent 26 percent of city employees. Their median salary of $63,000 a year is substantially less than the $73,000 median salary earned by whites. Latinos make up 18 percent of the city population, yet hold only 11 percent of city jobs. Their median income is $59,000. Asians, who make up 9 percent of the city’s population, hold 4 percent of city jobs and have a median salary of $68,000.

Women make up 52 percent of the city’s workforce, when Boston Public Schools employees are included in the tally. Without the schools, women make up only 28 percent of the city’s full-time employees. The median income for women working for the city is $65,000, compared with $73,000 for men.

The figures released in the Walsh administration report are not far off from figures released in recent years.

“Obviously, it’s not really surprising,” said Alexandra Oliver-Davila, executive director of Sociedad Latina and a member of the Latino Coalition of Greater Boston. “I hope that they actually use to make the changes we’ve been fighting for so long.”

There are signs of increased diversity in the report. People of color make up 64 percent of Walsh’s cabinet — the most diverse in the city’s history. And among department heads, the percentage of blacks has increased from 15 percent under the administration of former Mayor Thomas Menino to 18 percent. The percentage of Latino and Asian department heads — 5 percent and 3 percent, respectively — has remained unchanged.

There are also signs of decreasing diversity in the Fire and Police departments. The fire Department, which is 77 percent white, is among the least diverse in the city. The most recent class of 53 recruits hired by the Fire Department included 52 whites and just one African American.

In the Police Department, the most recent class to graduate from the Boston Police Academy included 34 whites, 2 blacks, 6 Latinos and 1 Asian.

Until 2004, Police Department hiring was under a court-under consent decree stemming from a 1973 discrimination case. Under the terms of the consent decree, the department was required to consider one black or Latino candidate for every white candidate considered for hire, and file a written report detailing why any candidate was not hired with attorneys for the Boston branch of the NAACP. The consent decree was to remain in effect until the percentage of black and Latino officers on the force matched the percentage of those groups’ populations in Boston.

Continued progress

By 2001 the percentage of blacks and Latinos in the department was on par with Boston percentages. A U.S. District Court judge released the department from the consent decree in 2004. Blacks now make up 23.5 percent of uniformed officers, and Latinos just 9 percent.

Blugh said the administration will be hiring a diversity officer for the Boston Fire Department to help diversify recruitment classes. To diversify Police Department recruits, Blugh said the administration is considering re-instating the cadet program, a program that was originally designed to bring in more officers of color. Under that program, recruits who served for two years would be eligible to be hired as officers as long as garnered a passing score on the Civil Service exam.

Under the Menino administration, the program was widely seen as a back door for patronage hires. Between 1993 and 1996, 96 percent of the officers who were hired through the program were white.

Blugh said the number of officers who could be hired through the cadet program would be contingent on the city’s budget for the program.

City Councilor Charles Yancey said using the cadet program would not likely put a dent in the growing inequality in the Police Department. He suggested the city instead seek to end its use of the Civil Service exam in admitting recruits.

“We have to take a fresh look at what the city’s needs are, and based on that make changes to how we hire police,” he said. “We should not be bound by the Civil Service system.”

Earlier this year City Councilor Michael Flaherty filed a bill that he says would increase diversity in the Boston Police Department.

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