Anonymous flyers decry Modesto’s efforts to diversify its workforce

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City of Modesto workers trim trees on Ghia Court in Modesto, Calif., Thursday, July 15, 2021. Across job categories at all levels, the city says it will strive to diversify its workforce- to better resemble the community’s available labor market.

aalfaro@modbee.com

Modesto’s effort to have a municipal workforce that reflects the diversity of the local workforce and ensures that it provides services to all residents equitably has met with opposition, with residents receiving anonymous flyers suggesting the city discriminates against white people.

Human Resources Director Christina Alger said the city’s effort was not to give preferences to job seekers based on race, ethnicity or gender. She said it was against the law.

Instead, she said, the city wants to improve its reach to skilled job seekers who are among groups underrepresented in the city’s workforce. The city also wants to remove any barriers they face in finding a job while hiring the best candidate for the job, regardless of background, Alger said.

“We always hire the most qualified candidate,” she said.

For example, Latino men make up about half of the artisans in Stanislaus County, but make up about one-fifth of the city’s workforce in this job category. Modesto’s five-year plan is to increase Latino representation in these jobs by 6 percentage points over five years.

The city says tradespeople include electricians, tree trimmers, parks crew chiefs, equipment operators, mechanics and sewage treatment plant operators, according to the job plan. for equal opportunity in the city.

The anonymous fliers targeted the Modesto Equity Commission, which is one component of the city’s new diversity, equity and inclusion program.

The commission is made up of 11 residents who will advise city officials and council on “issues relating to equity and inclusion, equal opportunity and disability issues within the workforce. city ​​workforce and services provided to the community,” according to the city’s website.

The city defines equity as “an approach that ensures everyone has access to the same opportunities.”

The members of the commission are volunteers and are not remunerated.

Anonymous flyers were left in homes. They urge residents to tell council members they oppose the commission because it supports critical race theory, an academic theory more than 40 years old. The flyers say opposing the commission is necessary to protect children in the community.

critical race theory

An Education Weekly article states that “the central idea of ​​the theory is that race is a social construct and that racism is not simply the product of individual prejudice or prejudice, but also something embedded in legal systems and policies”.

Last week, about half a dozen residents had contacted council members and the city about the flyers. There are at least two.

A flyer says a committee supporting equity, diversity and inclusion “is a cornerstone of critical race theory” and “would result in discrimination in the city’s hiring process.”

The other flyer states that the ideology of equity, diversity and inclusion is sweeping the nation and promoting ideas such as whites have privileges while people of color have been left behind, that men can give birth and compete in women’s sports, and that women can have male genitalia.

The flyer also says that “most, if not all,” of the academics who support this ideology are Marxists, socialists and anti-capitalists who want to cut or eliminate police funding and support Black Lives Matter.

Councilman David Wright, who is a conservative Republican, said the flyers miss the mark on what the city is actually doing.

He said this about the city casting as wide a net as possible when hiring employees. “It’s about looking at everyone regardless of gender, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity and selecting the most qualified candidate based on their ability,” he said.

“’Equity’ and ‘inclusion’ are political words,” Wright said, “and people pick them up and run with them. I will say the far right has twisted that and said it’s something we do.

The city is reorganizing its efforts

Algiers said Friday the city had received about four emails from residents supporting the Equity Commission and one couple opposing it.

The commission can trace its roots to the city’s decades-long effort to comply with federal laws that prohibit discriminating against a job applicant or worker because of race, color, religion, sex , transgender status, sexual orientation, national origin of that person. , age, disability or genetic information, according to a city report.

The city recently revamped these efforts through the creation of its Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Program. The program includes the board, as well as an equal employment opportunity plan, a language access plan (which includes providing translations at board meetings for residents who do not speak English) and a plan for Americans with disabilities.

The Equity Commission is the restructuring of the city’s dormant Equal Opportunity/Disability and Human Relations Commissions.

City Council unanimously approved the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Program in January and unanimously appointed the first six members of the Equity Commission in late August, when flyers apparently started popping up in people.

Modesto officials said that effort includes ensuring residents with disabilities can use city parks and that city services, such as street paving, are allocated fairly and equitably to all neighborhoods.

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Kevin Valine covers local government, homelessness and general missions for The Modesto Bee. He graduated from San José State University.

Michael A. Bynum