The president of an organization of black federal workers said yesterday her group is concerned about what she called "the insidious pressuring" of blacks to leave government, either through reductions in force (RIF) or forced retirements.
Mildred W. Goodman, president of Blacks in Government (BIG), said the Reagan administration's budget cuts and resultant RIFs have created a climate in which black federal workers end up being targeted for dismissal. And while the cutbacks are affecting all government employes, Goodman said such economizing "always hurts us more."
Goodman, during a news conference called to kick off the group's meeting here through Sunday at the Sheraton Washington Hotel, said she could not provide specific documentation to show that blacks are being singled out for RIFs and forced retirements. But she said her group knows of numerous instances where it is happening and intends to begin collecting specifics.
"Anytime you have a tightening of the belt . . . the good old boys will raise their ugly necks," said Goodman, who argued that a good old boy network in government can encourage "any remnants of racism."
A spokesman for the Office of Personnel Management, Pat Korten, called Goodman's contention "flatly contradictory to our officially stated policy and practice." He said agencies had been told to pay attention to affirmative-action concerns in RIF situations, and he noted that the Reagan administration has been much stricter about authorizing early retirements of employes.
Surveys by Congress' Federal Government Service Task Force show that in the RIFs conducted since the start of the Reagan administration through March 31 of this year blacks have accounted for roughly one-third of the 9,593 federal workers fired. Blacks make up about 22 percent of the federal work force. Government officials attribute the blacks' higher RIF rate to the fact that many have less seniority and are therefore more vulnerable to layoffs.
BIG, which Goodman said has more than 4,000 members in 87 chapters around the country, is holding its fourth annual training conference here and expects about 2,200 members to attend.
Goodman, who said she herself was forced to retire as deputy director of the Department of Transportation's civil rights office, also announced plans to set up liaison committees and other programs to assist blacks who are being adversely affected by civil service personnel actions.
"It's more pervasive than we realize," she said.
Goodman said she thought the good old boy network she criticized would be in operation "no matter who was president." But she said, "Black government employes have been in worse shape since this government arrived."