Washington's banking and savings and loan industries were accused at a D.C. City Council hearing last week of failure to hire enough black city dwellers and promote them to better jobs.
But leaders of both industries contended they have made big strides in recent years, and that the District of Columbia's educational system bears part of the blame for employment shortcomings by turning out underskilled job applicants.
"Since levels of education and educational attainment - which are the only available measure of qualifications for work in general - are higher in suburban jurisdictions, we feel strongly that more positive steps must be taken to improve the level of education within the District of Columbia," Charles Daniel, president of the D.C. Bankers Association, testified.
Wilhelmina Rolark (D-Ward 8), chairwoman of the council's Employment and Economic Development Committee, chided Daniel for the comment. She said that was an excuse she could not accept.
Robert McConkey, president of the Metropolitan Washington Savings and Loan League, echoed Daniel in later testimony, suggesting the council explore "the problem of the skills of the young" with educators.
The committee is holding a series of fact-finding hearings into employment practices in various city industries.
James Baldwin, director of the D.C. Office of Human Rights was the first witness. He said the banking industry's employment performance "has not been good" and urged the council to require banks to file official affirmative action plans with his office.
Daniel, who also is president of the Union First National Bank, said the city's banks have made "tremendous progress" in hiring and promoting minorities since 1973. Minority employees now fill 194 of the 1,184 managerial jobs in the city's five largest banks and have much larger proportions of other jobs, he said.
Rolark voiced distress at Daniel's testimony that only 36 percent of about 5,000 persons employed by city banks actually live in the city, with the other 64 percent living in the suburbs. "I want those figures to turn around," she said.