Last week in particular, class discussions were centered on race and ethnicity with respect to jobs and careers. Hiring preferences, networking, prejudices towards racial and ethnic groups along with a plethora of other factors decide who is and who is not hired. At the same time, despite affirmative action and various court cases and rulings, efforts to diversify a number of occupations have been extremely difficult.

In an article in the New York Times called “Told to Diversify, Dock Union Offers Nearly All-White List” by Patrick McGeehan, discusses the New York Harbor’s Waterfront Commission’s efforts to diversify the ports of New York and New Jersey. The commission, which cited the fact that three of the local unions were 82% white, wanted the unions to hire a greater percentage of blacks, Hispanics and women. However, the brunt of the anger was towards the fact that the major union, the International Longshores Association, presented the commission with 37 candidates for hire, of which, only 1 was black and three were white women. In addition, the commission not only wanted to diverse the union but also wanted the ports to reflect the populations in which most of them reside in, minority communities.

When I read this article, I immediately made a comparison to the New York City Fire Department (FDNY) and the recent issues suggesting that the exam discriminates against minorities. Though I did not find any statistics concerning the ethnic composition of the dock worker; based on what we learned in class, there are probably a few dominant white ethnic groups that work in the docks, whose fathers have worked in the industry since the time he or their families emmigrated for the United States. Like the FDNY or any occupation dominated by a particular ethnic or racial group, various factors come into play. Networking through friends and family members, employers preferences towards how one group works compared to another, as well as conflicts between different racial or ethnic groups all factor into the hiring process.

On the other hand, one issue that was presented in “Diversity and Its Discontents”, the reading we discussed in class is that blacks, Hispanics, or whites would simply not work or choose to apply to a particular occupation. One quote, which I hope was a misprint by the author or the International Longshores Association was that the one black candidate of their 37 candidates did not really want a job.

“Only one was black, and, according to the commissioners, he did not really want a job”

Does this statement reflect an employer’s attitudes towards a specific group or does it speak volumes to the idea that minorities or whites do not want to apply to occupations dominated by a racial or ethnic niche? Does this suggest that the employers feel that blacks are lazy or does it speak to the fact the simply no black or Hispanics applied to the job? Regardless, as people struggle to find jobs in the current economy, it will be interesting to see the changes, if any, to occupations dominated by a particular group.

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