Although affirmative action programs in Northern Virginia have resulted in some progress by local governments in hiring minorities, the majority of black workers in at least two jurisdictions still are at the bottom of the employment ladder.
More than 70 percent of blacks employed by the Alexandria and Arlington governments are earning less than $13,000 a year and usually work in maintenance or skilled craft jobs, according to figures supplied by both governments. Yet both areas have increased minority hiring since implementing affirmative action plans. Arlington began its plan in 1972, Alexandria, October, 1978.
Fairfax County, which has the largest local government work force in NOrthern Virginia, began its affirmative action program in January. Of the 5,830 full-time employes in the county, a little more than 6 percent are black.
Although Fairfax County statistics were not broken down into income levels, Cornelius J. O'Kane, assistant personnel director for the county, said the majority of black employes are not in lower-level jobs.
In Alexandria, where blacks include nearly a quarter of the 1,316 people in the city work force, about 83 percent earn less than $13,000, compared with 42.5 percent of white city workers. Salaries in Alexandria range from $5,670 to $43,933. According to city statistics, more than 28 percent of those hired by the city during its first year of affirmative action were minority workers.
That was about half of the projected goal of the hiring plan.
Rolf E. Schroder, Alexandria personnel director, said recently that hte results from last year were "unquestionably a disappointment." But, he added, the goals had been "overly optimistic." He said one reason the racial minority goal was not met, however, was because the city exceeded its hiring goal for white women. Women made up 50 percent of all new employes in Alexandria city government last year, the city figures show.
Schroder said his office is planning to improve recruiting procedures and to make more contacts with minorities that can fill city job openings.
The Alexandria plan has come under attack from the Northern Virginia branch of the Washington Urban League. Angelia Current, president of that branch, said the organization recently joined with the NAACP in sending a letter to the city administration criticizing the plan.
"Our sense is that although the city is on record in support of affirmative action . . . it does not appear to have any real policy intent," Current said. "We are not happy with the implementation of that plan. We are not happy with the elimination of the affirmative action officer."
Alexandria has been without an affirmative action officer since October. The position had been funded with federal CETA grants for two years, but that money ran out and the City Council refused this year to continue the funding, Schroeder said. Although Schroeder said he would like to fill the position, his staff can handle the affirmative action responsibilities.
Arlington also has come under criticism. In a work session with the County Board in June, a special task force of the Arlington Democratic Committee criticized the county plan because of the low ranking of blacks in the county work force and because of the lack of an affirmative action officer.
According to county statistics, about 71 percent of blacks in the county government are holding jobs at the low end of the salary and responsibility scale compared with about 34 percent of white workers.
County Manager W. Vernon Ford and county personnel director Alan V. Christenson advised the board that an affirmative action officer is not needed because the officer tends to be "out of the mainstream" of decision making. They also said job counseling, which the Democrats requested, is being handled by the personnel department.
Arlington's 1972 plan does not includes specific hiring goals. Instead, the board ordered that the work force of more than 1,300 be a "representative mix," according to Christenson.
While the county has increased its full-time work force more than 6 percent since 1973, the number of white women has increased 20 percent and black women, 85 percent, according to Christenson's figures. The number of white male workers fell 7 percent and the number of black male workers fell 12 percent, the figures show.%
"I expect every member of my staff to be thinking of EEO (equal employment opportunities) when they're doing their work," Crhistenson said in a recent interview. "We're trying to move ahead on as many as possible."
Ford promised the board he will present a new affirmative action plan, which includes hiring goals, for consideration after September.
In Fairfax County, the first quarterly report on its plan showed the county far behind its goals.
During the first three months of this year, the county hired 13 blacks and one Hispano; this year's hiring goal for blacks is 80, and 30 for Hispanos. Yet 133 whites were hired for jobs during the first quarter when the annual goal, is 195 new white employes.
O'Kane, however, said the program is "steady and accelerating." Minority hiring in the third quarter should be much higher, he said.
"You begin by installing a system, but they don't bear fruit immediately," he said. "By the time the third quarter has ended we might be very close to our goals." He cautioned, however, that the county would not "get a clear fix on how we're doing until January 1979."