Fighting Injustice With Love

On Valentine’s Day, job seekers and organizers will deliver candy and flowers to local and state officials, contractors associations, and other stakeholders with the goal of changing federal regulations to get construction firms to create more jobs for lower-income women and people of color.

Planners, civil engineers, business leaders, and others estimate the U.S. needs to invest billions (or $3.6 trillion by 2020 in the case of the American Society of Civil Engineers) in the country’s infrastructure to update our bridges, roads and transit, water and sewer systems in the coming decade. Increased job training can insure improved infrastructure also creates more opportunities for everyone, Gamaliel advocates say. Because federal dollars typically bankroll such projects, federal contracting rules cover work done.
The Office of Federal Contracts and Compliance Programs (OFCCP) in the Department of Labor, one of the targets of the Valentine's Day action, has taken a step in the right direction earlier this year. They issued controversial regulations that will force federal contractors to ask people with disabilities to self-identify. The regulations also task contractors to stop discrimination and to make accommodations.

Advocates believe that it is essential to monitor these new regulations that will move people with disabilities into jobs.The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission reported that “8 out of 10 people with developmental disabilities is not in the labor market.” That 80 percent unemployment rate has not changed for over the last 10 years for the over 5 million Americans with developmental disabilities (severe lifelong disabilities such as cerebral palsy, autism, epilepsy, and intellectual disabilities that occur at birth or before age 22) according to Tim Hornbecker of the Arc of Alameda County.

We have a chance to move all kinds of people into employment this year by enforcing the great changes that the OFFCP has already made and through changing outdated workforce regulations that will open federally funded jobs to low income people, minorities, and women.  

President Obama, tear up that outdated regulation and get the Department of Labor and HUD working on new regulations that will help communities get back to work!

Laura Barrett is the executive director Interfaith Worker Justice.


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