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(March 17, 2012 –Washington, D.C.) Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, Sr., President and Founder of RPC, and Roosevelt Lenard, National President of National Black Coalition of Federal Aviation Employees, met on Thursday, March 15, 2012, with US Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and Michael Huerta, Acting Administrator of the FAA, to discuss fairness in employment and contracting at the FAA. Acting Administrator Huerta admitted that despite recent efforts to improve representation of blacks, other minorities and women in jobs and contracts, that much more needed to be done. A recent study by the NBCFAE showed the FAA as the least inclusive agency in federal government.
Secretary LaHood committed to regular meetings between RPC, NBCFAE and DOT and FAA officials to work toward meaningful solutions. Huerta indicated that goal-setting and data collection do not run afoul of prohibitions against quotas. NBCFAE commissioned a study of FAA employment which revealed that in 2007 blacks, other minorities, women and people with disabilities were significantly under-represented at the FAA, especially above the GS 8 grade. For example, in 2007, white males comprised 79% of FAA employees, but only 68% of the federal civilian workforce and 72% of the civilian labor force. According to Mr. Lenard, “the disparity cannot be explained by a lack of qualified minority and female applicants.” Neither the FAA nor DOT disputed the findings of the NBCFAE study.
A barrier study to determine why blacks, other minorities and women are locked out of FAA was agreed to by the FAA more than two years ago, but has not yet been accomplished. Acting Administrator Huerta indicated that he had made completion of the study “a personal priority for the FAA.” If the barrier study reveals systemic patterns of exclusion of blacks, other minorities and women, it clears the way for narrowly-tailored solutions to address the issue.
The FAA also completed the Citizenship Education Fund’s survey of diversity and inclusion at the request of its Vice President, Janice L. Mathis, Esq., who attended the meeting, which also included FAA Chief Counsel Kathryn B. Thomson and U.S. DOT General Counsel Robert S. Rivkin. “Many of the survey questions focusing on contracting were incompletely answered due to lack of data. Administrator Huerta agreed that the FAA needed to do a better job of data collection to document whether or not federal contracts were being awarded fairly as required by Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964,” indicated Mathis.
Transportation constitutes a potential linchpin for economic recovery in the U.S. On that point Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, Sr. and Secretary LaHood were in complete agreement. LaHood pointed to recent progress in creating regional transportation plans in Illinois and Georgia as evidence that economic growth spurred by infrastructure investments transcends partisan divides. Jackson indicated that transportation projects create jobs and provide the means for communities plagued by high unemployment to access existing jobs.
According to NBCFAE board member Ron Bagley, “we are grateful to Rev. Jackson and RPC for setting up this meeting. And we appreciate the fact that the Secretary had many of the decision makers in the room. But of course, we must continue to work hard to make sure that real progress is made.” Rev. Jackson indicated that he expects to make fairness in transportation a focal point of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition’s annual meeting in Chicago, July 11-15.
For more than thirty-five years the NBCFAE has worked to promote equal employment opportunity for black, female and other minority employees and to provide an effective liaison between the FAA and federal aviation employees. The Rainbow PUSH Coalition works to level the playing field in civic and economic life.