New York State
By Marcos Crespo
City & State (March 20, 2015)
The Hispanic community in New York State continues to face both opportunities and challenges in the first decades of the 21st century. Its size has increased significantly in both absolute and relative terms. Political leadership and economic success have continued to grow as the community has developed. At the same time, the difficult economic challenges facing the state often impact this community in extremely negative ways. Workforce participation, income dynamics, educational issues and upward mobility remain issues critical to the economic success of Hispanics and other minorities.
Loss of potential income for an entire community as per their clear underrepresentation in the New York State government workforce is a real factor for Hispanics in their attempts to enter the Civil Service System. Failed promises of providing equal employment opportunity by a continuous list of administrations have been covered up by skewed statistics and lack of access to government data and administrative initiative that have cost Hispanics jobs and deprived communities of millions of dollars in yearly income.
Hispanics are proportionately the most underrepresented ethnic group in our state's government agencies. At their present rate of workforce participation, it will take over 150 years for Hispanics to reach parity with their 18.3% of the state's population.
In 2004, 16% of the state's population was Hispanic but accounted for only 3.8% or 6,515 out of the 169,571 jobs in the government workforce.
In 2014, 18% of the state's population was Hispanic but accounted for only 4.7% or 6,142 out of the 131, 800 jobs in the government workforce.
While percentage wise there appears to be an increase, in real numbers, Hispanic state government workers have lost almost 400 jobs over the past decade - when their workforce participation rates and demographic growth are tremendous.
The trend to downsize government by the current administration to provide savings for the state has not provided savings but has only created a situation where both Hispanics and other minorities remain tremendously underrepresented in the New York State government workforce. This at a time when Hispanics and other minorities represent almost 10 million of the nearly 20 million inhabitants.
While 1 in 3 New Yorkers are Hispanic, African American or Asian, there is a total disconnect from this reality throughout state agencies. In top administrative and policymaking positions, Hispanics and African Americans are almost nonexistent. Concurrently, as the state government workforce ages out of the system, the Department of Civil Service's practices and behavior need to be reviewed.
This underrepresentation is unacceptable considering the explosion of growth within these communities and old excuses, such as blaming the limited geographic distribution of minorities for their underrepresentation in state government jobs, no longer hold any truth. Hispanic communities throughout New York have faced triple digit growth in upstate communities and there are more minorities in and around upstate cities than ever before.
This problem is of tremendous importance to the New York State Assembly Puerto Rican/Hispanic Task Force and is one that will be the focus of hearings and legislation as the Task Force moves to address the terrible discrepancies and obstacles faced by the Hispanic worker in entering public service in New York State.
This is not just about 131,000 state government jobs.
The Department of Civil Service controls 500,000 municipal level jobs at local government levels. The data on diversity at that level is even more troubling. The Assembly Puerto Rican/Hispanic Task force will begin to focus on this problem as it highlights economic development obstacles that impact every aspect of life for our communities.
Marcos A. Crespo is a Member of the New York State Assembly from The Bronx. He is Chairman of the Bronx Democratic County Committee and of the Puerto Rican/Hispanic Legislative Task Force.