More Federal Hiring of Hispanics Urged
Advocacy Groups Seek Accelerated Recruiting Effort
By Brian Faler
Special to The Washington Post
Tuesday, May 11, 2004; Page A17
A coalition of Hispanic organizations urged the Bush administration and Congress yesterday to dramatically increase the number of Hispanics working in the federal government, saying the minority group is underrepresented throughout the bureaucracy.
The National Hispanic Leadership Agenda, the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Hispanic Federal Executives called the issue a "crisis." They pointed to a recent government report indicating that 7 percent of federal civilian employees are Hispanic, compared with 13 percent of the entire civilian workforce.
The organizations blamed the government for the disparity, saying its recruiting efforts have long been ineffectual. They demanded that the government hire 100,000 Hispanics -- the nation's largest minority group -- over the next five years to make up the difference.
"Irrefutable facts tell us there is an escalating crisis in Hispanic federal employment," said Manuel Mirabal, chairman of the National Hispanic Leadership Agenda. "Today, we are calling on President Bush to make fairness and equality for Hispanics in federal employment and contracting a priority in his administration."
The report, issued earlier this year by the Office of Personnel Management, found that Hispanics are the only minority group underrepresented in the federal government. African Americans, for example, make up about 10.4 percent of the civilian workforce but more than 17 percent of the government's civilian employment rolls, the report says.
Asians and Pacific Islanders make up about 4.5 percent of those working in the civilian labor force and about 4.6 percent of the federal government's civilian employees. Native Americans represent 0.6 percent of the civilian workforce but 2 percent of federal employees.
Overall, the report said, minorities make up about 31 percent of the government's civilian workforce and more than 28 percent of the nation's civilian workforce.
The Hispanic groups said the shortages were particularly acute at the top of the bureaucracy, where 3.3 percent of senior executive positions were held by Hispanics.
Representatives of the coalition also warned that because the nation's Hispanic population is growing rapidly, the disparity between Hispanic representation in the federal workforce and the nation's civilian workforce as a whole will only increase if the government does not take action.
"As the fastest-growing segment of the U.S. population by far, and now the largest minority group in the country, Hispanics will continue to fall father behind in terms of their representation in the federal workforce unless meaningful efforts are started now," said Gilbert Sandate, vice president of the National Association of Hispanic Federal Executives.
Scott Hatch, communications director of the Office of Personnel Management, acknowledged the shortfalls but said the administration is committed to erasing the disparity.
"It is a problem, and it is something that we're addressing. It is important, and we're disappointed in the numbers," Hatch said. "But there is an effort to correct this and there is some baby steps toward it -- and it's just taking time."
Hatch said the government has been targeting many of its recruiting efforts to cities with large Hispanic populations, advertising positions in Spanish-language media and hiring an increasing number of Hispanics.
He declined to comment on the groups' demands that the government hire 100,000 Hispanics and also create several senior-level positions to oversee Hispanic employment issues within the bureaucracy.
"I'd like to look at what they're writing and what they're proposing -- and I'm sure other folks would too," Hatch said.
© 2004 The Washington Post Company