Fighting for a diverse state workforce

Local 1000 presses legislature for flexibility in transfers to improve upward mobility and diversity

The state of California needs to improve enforcement of anti-discrimination laws, remove bureaucratic roadblocks that slow the upward mobility of workers and make other changes to help diversify the state’s workforce, according to testimony at a legislative hearing from Local 1000 and the allied State Employees Civil Rights Coalition.

“California has the strongest anti-discrimination laws in the nation…yet, our laws are only as strong as their implementation,” said Local 1000 President Yvonne R.  Walker. “California has plenty of room for improvement when it comes to implementing those laws and supporting a diverse workforce.” 

President Walker testified July 2 at a special joint legislative hearing titled “Examining the State’s Commitment to Equal Employment Opportunity and Diversity in the State Civil Service.” It was a joint hearing of the Senate Public Employment and Retirement Committee, and the Assembly Public Employees, Retirement and Social Security Committee.  

Walker joined Caroline Cabias and Tyrone Netters of the State Employee Civil Rights Coalition to give a worker’s perspective on issues relating to anti-discrimination, encouraging workplace diversity and upward mobility of historically underrepresented minorities.  

Other testimony focused on a recent state Senate report finding that budget cuts and poor leadership hampered the Department of Fair Employment and Housing in its mission to investigate discrimination claims.  

Promoting equal opportunity 

Walker and other speakers highlighted the state’s failure to effectively comply with AB 124, a 2006 law designed to promote diversity in the state civil service.  The law requires the state to report on the diversity of its 200,000-member workforce, mandates that departments create and implement upward mobility programs, and requires departments to develop and maintain equal employment opportunity programs.  

“These reports have been produced inconsistently. In order to get a sense of the diversity of civil service workforce, we must insist that these reports be delivered on time,” Walker said. “Departments must be held accountable on the issue of equal opportunity.” 

President Walker also pointed out that CalHR’s new, stricter interpretation of State Personnel Board Rule 250, which governs transfers, has prevented state employees, particularly underrepresented minorities, from making lateral transfers to advance their careers.  

The hearing was jointly chaired by Senator Norma Torres (D-Pomona) and Assemblymember Rob Bonta (D-Alameda).  

“SEIU and the employee civil rights coalition play an important role in helping California retain a diverse and efficient workforce that reflects the diverse state that we serve,” Bonta said.