It is midday, and the inside of the building at 500 C St. NW looks like a bank on payday: people shffling forward slowly in long, wobbly lines. This is the D.C. unemployment office, and what these people are submitting are their names.The person behind the window at the front of the line casually inserts their cards into a "job bank" file. Yet, for many a withdrawal will never be made.
By many personal accounts, coming here is onw of the more painful parts out of work. Registering for jobs with the District's manpower employment service si a lengthy, tortuous ordeal that turns many away in frustration.
Geraldine Green, an Anacostia adviser to the city's program, calls manpower's system "tedious, confusing, inefficient and dehaumanizing."
"I have personally seen (employment service) workers reading newspapers, cleaning fingernails or carrying on personal conversations between themselves" while job-seekers wait idly, she has said.
National experts who have examined the D.C. system decry a lack of meaningful information on the cost and efficacy of training progams where job-seekers are sent by the employment service.
Much of the problem here appears to be the result of bureaucratic snarls and infighting that often leaves a person seeking work personality conflicts and differences in opinion among officials who run the programs often interfere with training.
The Department of Labor classifies all programs in the country either as "satisfactory," "marginal," or "unsatisfactory," according to performance and reporting procedures. Washington's is classified as "marginal." An independent auditor found several programs under contract to the Manpower Administration "inauditable by standarda of federal employment and training acts.
The D.C. Manpower Administration contracts out its major training programs to about 14 organizations, such as Project Build, Pride, Inc., and the United Planning Organization (UPO).
One particularly fierce dispute between Project Build and the manpower department held up for days tha certification of young men and women awaiting construction classes.
in another instance, one young Larry Yarborough, who enrolled in Project Build in part to receive a high school diploma, completed his training, but then learned that his records had been misplaced.
"At the end of the training program, I figured I was on my way," said Yarborough, who is 20. "But it turned out that one of the classes had been fired and some records had been misplaced. So later they tell me they had no record of my going to same of these classes. Some of the classes I didn't go to because I didn't know I was supposed to.
"Anyway, I didn't get my diploma, so I walked across the stage on graduation day and got my roofing certificate and kinda smiled and made myself act happy. It was more than I had when I went in."
Most job training programs in Wsashington focus on young people between the ages 19 and 25. There are about 130,000 persons in that age group living in the city and the unemployment rate for them is about 21 per cent.
More than 16,000 residents sought jobs and training funded through the District's main manpower system with federal money from Title I of the Comprehensive Employment and Training Act (CETA), last year. Of that number, only about 5,000 were placed in jobs. (Another 5,000 termed positively terminated" went back to school or joined the armed forces.)
According to Manpower estimates, of the 5,000 placed in jobs after training, only 3,000 were still working at those jobs 60 days later.
Robert Taggart, executive director of the National Council on Employment Policy, made a major study of the training programs here in 1972-1973 and recently reviewed their current operations. Subsequently, he testified before the City Council that things had gotten worse. It was impossible to track individual trainees through the system; information on the potential labr market was inadequate; the management system was "bloated" with salaried staff.
Since 1972, he concluded, there had been "a pronounced decline in performance. As a student of manpower programs I am appalled by most of what I see," he said.
In the case of Manpower vs. Project Build, project director Roland Williams claimed his program to train youth for the construction trades could work more efficiently if "bureaucrats" were more sensitive. Manpower officials said the system could work better if Williams, and other directors, played by the rules.
"They just don't understand what its like to work with kids," Williams complained.
"I wouldn't have any of those guys working for me," Williams said of the manpower officials. "Those civil service types . . . too concerned about the wrong things. They don't understand people. You get a kid come in here off the streets looking for help and I'm ready to give it. For some of them, this is the last straw."
William B. Clatanoff Jr., manpower's economist and chief analyst, said, "May I be blunt? Can I? He plays games with us all the time. He sends us a list of kids to be certified two days before deadline and expects everything to just happen. We tell him we need more time and he doesn't do it."
Adolph Slaughter, manpower's public information director, said, "The system is inflexible. We just don't have a political filter like other cities to screen us from the federal government. All we have is Walter Fauntroy. We are the most scrutinized agency in the District government. We make detailed reports monthly directly to the U.S. Labor Department. The heat is on us every time," he said.
Yet, the problems continue.
One organization, Wider Opportunities for Women (WOW), signed a $150,000 contract with Manpower to train and place 80 women in good jobs - and waited nine months before a referral system was established by manpower to send them women to train.
Last year, Pride, Inc. trained 56 young persons for jobs as auto mechanics and home renovators. Under the system that existed then, they could be placed in jobs not by pride but by the United Planning Organization, the city's antipoverty agency, which was assigned a citywide placement duty. Mary Treadwell, executive director of Pride, said this happened:
"We made a control group out of these 56 because we wanted to see what UPO was doing by way of placement. We asked all of them to report back to us for a period of two weeks. All 56 had been sent initially by UPO to dishwashing jobs, or similar jobs that anyone could find by picking up a newspaper. Ninety per cent of them had been sent to Virginia or Maryland - in other words, sent to low-paying jobs that involved substantial transportation cost. Not one of the 56 was placed in motor mechanics or housing."
Last year, the city got more than $13 million to hire public service employes from among the unemployed and place them in city agencies. Manpower's Wilkins has no control over them - they are assigned by the Office of Budget and Management Systems in city hall. Under the original law governing about half of those, at least 50 per cent are supposed to be trained and later placed in private jobs. The Department of Labor, because of the recession, has waived that 50 per cent placement rule, so all public service employees theoretically could become permanent city workers.
The vast minority of them receive no training except what they pick up on the job. Less than 5 per cent of them last year were placed in outside employment. Or at least the District government thinks that was the case, but it really doesn't know because it has no system for determining who is placed outside and who isn't. Rather than spend money to find out where ex-employes went, said OBM's William Krause, it was decided to spend it to help more unemployed get city jobs.
In at least one instance, the District's Manpower Department may be violationg-federal law governing use of funds. On its payroll are five persons making more than $10,000 annually with funds provided under a CETA public service jobs subsidy. Bu law those funds cannot pay salaries above $10,000 a year. Other city agencies pay salaries about the level by suing city appropriations as a supplement.
The Manpower Administration, having no locally appropriated money, uses other federal grant money to pay the five persons more than $10,000.
Manpower director Thomas Wilkins said he had authorization from the Department of Labor for the use of federal money. Deputy regional director Boyd Payton, however, said "it is not at all clear that they have any authority to do that. We are investigating and will send it to our solicitor for an opinion. There is nothing in our files to show that we approved it."
According to Wilkins, many of the bureaucratic problems will be eased as those involved get a better sense of what can or cannot be done by the agency. Efforts are under way, he said, to better coordinate the activities of groups such as Pride, UPO and Project Build.
But, Wilkins said, "Theres just not enough jobs in our files for the people who want them. There are too many low skilled people for the jobs available. That is handicapping us."