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Black job shortage is ‘crisis’


Widening inequality, rising housing costs and a lack of opportunity have led to a critical shortage of jobs in the Black community that has hit the crisis level, according to a new study from researchers at UCLA. The findings were discussed Tuesday evening at Holman United Methodist Church in West Adams where more than 100 residents along with numerous social justice organizations joined community leaders to address the ongoing issue of high Black unemployment here and across the nation.

The study was conducted by the UCLA Labor Center and the Los Angeles Black Worker Center.

Among the study’s findings:

—Economic hardships are pushing Black residents out of the area. Since the 1980s, the Black population in Los Angeles County has declined by about 100,000. At the same time the Inland Empire (Riverside and San Bernardino counties) has gained some 250,000 Black residents.

—Black people in L.A. County are more educated than ever before, yet they experience lower labor participation rates than other groups and are stuck in “entry level” jobs and are not able to advance to more senior level or managerial jobs.

—Black workers earn about 75 percent of what White workers earn on average. The gap is even higher for Black women.

The study, titled “Ready to Wor, Uprooting Inequity: Black Workers in Los Angeles County is available online at

The Black Worker Center was launched in 2010 in an effort to reverse the historically disproportionate levels of unemployment in the Los Angeles African American community.

The presentation at Holman coincided with the 1963 Selma to Montgomery march and organizers paid special attention to how that civil rights action went beyond seeking social justice but also demanded economic justice for workers.

Additional findings from the report noted that the research for many represented the first time some were able to see the whole picture regarding the Black job crisis and others were able to look at just how pervasive and all encompassing the impact of the unemployment has been on the health, wealth and education of the Black community.

There also needs to a complete understanding of how corporate employment practices like right to work laws and the restaurant industry’s insistence relegate Black workers to low-paid jobs.

Among other solutions, report authors recommend the unionization of Black workers, an expansion of hiring benchmarks that include underrepresented workers, and an institutionalization of partnerships with credible community organizations to implement targeted outreach, recruitment, and retention programs.

There also needs to be an emphasis on the intentional recruitment as well as retention of African American workers.

Panels at the presentation also highlight partnerships between the Black Worker Center and the union that provides individuals with help in improving their employment picture. For example on April 29 SEIU 721 will hold a workshop providing workers tips on how to get their criminal justice history sealed.

As part of the effort to change the narrative on Black wokers, the Black Worker center has also launched a campaign called healingblackfutures and among the elements of this approach are working to get local government involved in make sure that Black workers are protected, if they need help fight for their jobs.

City News /service contributed to this story.