Federal set- aside contracts for minorities based on 1970 census

Dear Editor,

At a March 17, 2009 US 41 Corridor Expansion Project Joint Meeting of Business, Tribal and Labor subcommittee members it came to my attention that:

For federal and federally assisted construction contractors, [labor] goals are established as a percentage participation rate. The percentage goal established for minority participation must be at least equal to the percentage established for the ‘economic area’ as outlined in the Federal Register, Vol.45, No. 194 pages 65976-65991, dated Friday, October 2, 1980. The percentage goal established for female participation is 6.9% nationwide (see Federal Register pages 855750-85751, Vol. 45, No.251, dated Tuesday, December 20, 1980. Source: Technical Assistance Guide for Federal Construction Contractors – Appendix E – bold added.

The economic area minority labor participation goals established in this guidance – which is still the basis for goal setting today - were based upon the 1970 US Census – now nearly 40 year old data! In the specific case of the US 41 Project, labor participation goals for minorities – including American Indians - for Winnebago County is 0.9% and for Brown County it is 1.3%. The Female worker participation goal in both counties remains at 6.9% set in 1980.

According to the Federal Register/Vol. 45, No. 194 / Friday, October 3, 1980 Notice, page 65981:

…the Department was concerned that numerical goals be based on a rational, reliable, valid and uniform information base… Thus, a contractor performing a nonexempt construction contract in a Standard Metropolitan Statistical Area (SMSA) with a 20 percent minority labor force would have a minority goal of 20 percent for each craft and trade employed by the contractor in the SMSA, and would be required to take every good faith step to ensure that 20 percent of its work hours were performed by minority workers.

I too want minority and female labor participation goals to be set ‘based on a rational, reliable, valid and uniform information base’, but the 1970 Census is not that base! For example, in general terms, American Indians – were dramatically undercounted in the 1970 Census.

For Wisconsin in 1970, the 1970 Census documented the American Indian population as 18,924 were as in the Census’ 2005-2007 American Community Survey is was 46,322! Similarly, the 1970 Wisconsin Black population was 128,224 compared to 331,483 in the Census’ 2005-2007 American Community Survey, and Hispanic/Latino counts were not even available in 1970, which are at 260,103 in the Census’ 2005-2007 American Community Survey for Wisconsin!

We must work to have the base data and formulas used to establish minority labor participation goals updated and correctly reflect the actual available and ready workforce for the construction industry, to ensure that these applicants are employed on the 41 project! This is particularly imperative in the current economic environment where the majority contractors are motivated to maintain their traditional workforces employed.

Craig Anderson
Executive Director/President
American Indian Chamber of Commerce of Wisconsin
10809 W. Lincoln Ave, Suite 102
West Allis, WI 53227

Phone: 414.604.2044
Fax: 414.604.2070

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