They Blame it on Us?

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Harry C. Alford and Kay DeBow

Beyond the Rhetoric

By Harry C. Alford & Kay DeBow

It is absolutely shocking! In Illinois, 43 percent of people who have died from the disease and 28 percent of those who have tested positive are African-Americans, a group that makes up just 15 percent of the state’s population. African-Americans, who account for a third of positive tests in Michigan, represent 40 percent of deaths in that state even though they make up 14 percent of the population. In Louisiana, about 70 percent of the people who have died are Black, though only a third of that state’s population is.

This is intolerable yet the federal government is acting as if we are the cause. They blame it on Affirmative Action. We’ve shown this to you before, but we need you to see it again; the instructions given to federal agencies by the Department of Labor follow:

FROM: Department of Labor (emphasis added by us):

TO: ALL CONTRACTING AGENCIES OF THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT

SUBJECT: Contracts for Coronavirus Relief Efforts

In view of the special circumstances in the national interest presented by the novel coronavirus outbreak, and consistent with agency practice relating to emergency responses, I have decided to grant a limited exemption and waiver from some of the requirements of the laws administered by the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP). OFCCP enforces Executive Order 11246 (EO 11246), as amended, Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act (Section 503), as amended, and Section 4212 of the Vietnam Era Veterans’ Readjustment Assistance Act (VEVRAA), as amended, which require that Federal contracting agencies include in all covered supply & service and construction contracts an equal opportunity clause. OFCCP regulations authorize me to exempt contracts from requiring the inclusion of any part of the equal opportunity clause in any specific contract when I deem that special circumstances in the national interest so require, when it is impracticable to act upon requests for exemptions individually, and where such waiver will contribute to convenience in the administration of the authorities enforced by OFCCP. 41 CFR 60-1.5(b)(1), 60-300.4 (b)- (1), and 60-741.4(b)(1).

The exemption and waivers granted herein relate to obligations under EO 11246, Section 503, and VEVRAA. Federal contracting agencies may utilize the following equal opportunity clauses in covered contracts entered into specifically to provide Coronavirus relief. Accordingly, the EEO clauses in FAR sections may be modified as follows:

As a preamble to the insertion of 52.222-26: Notice: The following terms of this clause are waived for this contract: subparagraph (c)(2), (c)(3), (c)(4), (c)(5)(ii), (c)(6), (c)(8), and the phrase “on-site compliance evaluations and” in (c)(9). As a preamble to the insertion of 52.222.35:

In short, this exemption and waiver extends to all affirmative action obligations of supply and service and construction contracts, and other obligations as specified in the FAR clauses above. The exemption and waivers do not apply to the processing of complaints of discrimination under 41 CFR 60-1.21-1.24, 41 CFR 60-300.61 and 41 CFR 60-741.61. The exemptions and waivers also do not exempt a covered contractor from their obligation to comply with other federal, state and local civil rights laws.

I am granting this exemption and waiver for a period of three months, from March 17, 2020 to June 17, 2020, subject to an extension should special circumstances in the national interest so require. This exemption and waiver pertain only to the three programs administered by OFCCP and should not be interpreted as applicable to any other programs or laws administered by the Department of Labor. (Read the entire memorandum.)

April 7, 2020

We protest this instruction and find it vile and, in fact, racist. We contend that to counter this we demand the following:

National Black Chamber of Commerce Request of the Federal Government:

  • Immediately reinstate all recently waived Affirmative Actions and Procurement Protections for hiring and contracting of Black individuals and Black vendors by the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs.
  • Earmark $10 Billion Dollars for direct government loans, grants and capacity building assistance to support Black Businesses throughout the United States that have been devastated by COVID-19. This initiative would be administered by the National Black Chamber of Commerce.
  • Suspend all Project Labor Agreement requirements on Federal Contracts under $100 million.
  • Increase enforcement of Federal Title VI and HUD Section 3 compliance where applicable and eliminate procurement wai- vers. All outreach to identify Black Businesses to participate on federally funded projects should be coordinated through the National Black Chamber of Commerce and its local affiliates.
  • Corporations representing the various entities that received funds from the CARES ACT, its new hires and procurement contracts must be subject to Title VI and HUD Section 3
  • Quarterly reporting of all states that received CARES ACT funds must report the number of newly hired Blacks for openings and Black vendors that were contracted to provide Goods and Services with these resources; subject to Title VI and HUD Section 3. Those who fail to comply will be subject to the sanctions as stipulated under federal law.

It is time for us to counter-attack! So far, we have been too silent, in fact, mute. In the name of our Civil Rights Forefathers let us charge!

Mr. Alford is the Co-Founder, President/CEO of the National Black Chamber of Commerce ®. Ms. DeBow is the Co-Founder, Executive Vice President of the Chamber. Website: www.nationalbcc.org Emails: halford@nationalbcc.org kdebow@nationalbcc.org.

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