Tuesday, June 30, 2009

EPA Should Study Employment Practices At Green Groups?

A recent protest rally by green groups at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) headquarters in Washington, D.C. made us think about the relationship between the federal agency and traditional environmental groups. EPA gets really nervous when protesters come to their buildings to assert their complaints. Yet why doesn't EPA ever utilize this strategy? Now we are not talking about retaliation, but we are talking about addressing a legitimate and longstanding structural problem in the NGO environmental movement: discrimination in professional position employment.

Clearly the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Commission on Civil Rights and the Justice Department would be the appropriate federal entities to formally investigate this issue, but shouldn't EPA be the agency to raise it? Shouldn't EPA initiate some sort of study into the segregationist hiring practices of the vast majority of these groups. After all, isn't the employment environment at green groups just as legitimate an issue as other such issues? Quite simply, the vast majority of traditional, mainstream and grassroots NGO environmental groups do not hire Blacks in professional positions. How many of these groups also receive federal funds? If groups receive government grants and discriminate, shouldn't this trigger Title VI of the Civil Rights Act 0f 1964 regarding use of federal funds? Although tax-exempt groups are exempt from the provisions of Title VII employment discrimination (and the green groups know this), they are subject to losing federal funds for such discrimination under Title VI.

AAEA polled groups on their hiring practices in our Green Group Diversity Survey and the results were published in a Green Group Report Card. Only five of twenty five groups responded to the survey. They know they can ignore us. But would they ignore EPA? We want to hold hands and sing Kumbaya next to a camp fire and celebrate 'green everything' too, but it is hard for some of us to break out the acoustic guitar when we know blatant employment discrimination is occurring at most of the green groups. So someone needs to stand up for employment equality in groups proclaiming the virtue of their policies over those of other entities. We believe EPA should at least raise the issue of professional employment discrimination at the green groups. The agency has never raised the subject. At a very minimum, if groups do not correct this historical discrimination, they should not receive federal funds.

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