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Study: U.S. dioceses lag in minority hiring.

It's time for an initiative, official says

ST. PAUL, Minn. - The central offices of U.S. Catholic dioceses lag behind other institutions in hiring minorities, a recent National Catholic Conference for Interracial Justice study found, but affirmative action experts told NCR the will to change can be the most powerful factor to improve that situation.

The 1992 NCCIJ study found that 74 percent of 94 dioceses responding to its survey reported few or no minority employees. Twenty-five percent of the dioceses reported employing nine or more minorities; 26 dioceses employed no minorities.

"The Catholic church is approaching 40 percent minority" Jerome Ernst, NCCIJ executive director, commented. "It is time for new action initiatives" that will result in Catholic church employment for Catholic and non-catholic minorities.

Carol Gaudin of Atlanta, regional director of the Office of Federal Contract Compliance, which does affirmative action and nondiscrimination enforcement for the federal government, is vice chair of the NCCLJ. She said dioceses "first need to have a plan, and they need to dedicate resources to accomplishing the plan. And there needs to be a commitment from the top."

"I don't think anyone questions the good will of the leadership of the church," Ernst told NCR. However, often leaders "don't know what to do or how" to implement their concern.

For instance, he said, a religious order told the NCCIJ it wanted more minority vocations. NCCIJ responded. "We looked at employment, purchasing and how their services are delivered. . . . I said, |You're not going to get anywhere with vocations unless you change these other practices.'"

An NCCIJ survey of 85 dioceses, related to the one on hiring, showed that in only four dioceses does more than one percent of central office purchasing go to minority businesses. Seventy-seven of the 85 dioceses said they have no minority-purchasing program or process for insuring equal access in purchasing. Sixty-three said they had no policy regarding banks that discriminate.

"Even if you want to deal with employment, if you start including minority vendors in purchasing programs, the relationships are going to start building," said Ernst. In the inner city, minority purchasing "is a crucial part of finding jobs," Ernst said.

The NCCIJ employed Evelyn Freeman, co-owner of the Milwaukee affirmative action and equal opportunity consulting firm Walker and Walker to assist two dioceses, Cleveland and Milwaukee, implement affirmative action employment programs. Freeman, who like Gaudin contends the desire to change comes first, also said "willingness to take the time to let these people come forward, and not fill the job tomorrow with the friend of a current employee" is a significant element in minority hiring.

Other steps, she said, are "to make sure to do wide recruiting, to go to organizations and use media that have access to minorities" and to "send notices out to parishes that have wide minority membership."

"Special-interest groups are represented in the church," as in ministries for blacks, Hispanics and Americans Indians, she said, "but it doesn't seem to make a big difference when it comes to employment."

Gaudin said of her contract compliance work, "I have subordinate managers" whose "No. 1 performance standard" is equal employment opportunity. "Their performance evaluations, their bonuses and everything," are tied to creating a diverse workplace.

The church too "has to show it's serious," that a diverse work environment "is a value of the organization," she said. Like others asked whether approaches need to differ with different minorities, Gaudin said, "Recruiting sources may be different for the various minority groups. . . . But the techniques are pretty much the same. It's outreach, giving a welcoming reception to people who come in."

She also advised looking at requirements for the job, whether "you can fill it at a trainee level if necessary, and grow your own person," and at encouraging applicants with slogans that say more than "EEO-M/F "perhaps" something like |Minorities and women are encouraged to apply because we value a diverse work force.'"

Gaudin said churches are making five-and 10-year strategic plans, projecting how many churches, parishes and priests will be needed. With the church becoming more black, Hispanic and Asian, they need to include an inclusive church" as part of the strategic plan.

Freeman said the church may need to find ways, just as the private sector does, to bring people in, not necessarily when the right job is available but when a person is available, get them acclimated to the business, and then have a slot to put them in as time goes on."

She said salaries can be a problem because, for instance, a majority person might teach in a Catholic school for $10,000 less than in a public school if he or she does not need the primary family income, whereas a minority person might need more money. You have to have a fair amount of economic stability" to opt for the Catholic school, she said. "A lot of minority families need that extra" income.

Michael Suhy, personnel director for the Cleveland diocese, said he has run into such economic competition as he vies for minority employees. The diocese offers lower salaries than many government-funded firms and agencies, he said, explaining that often their lucrative contracts are tied to minority hiring.

Clevelands Bishop Anthony Pilla inaugurated Clevelands affirmative action hiring policy in 1982, on the Feast of St. Joseph the Worker, Suhy said. When Suhy became personnel director in 1984, he organized the central office to define hiring and salary structures. And the late Archbishop James Lyke, then Cleveland's auxiliary bishop, "worked with our legal office" to create "a diocesan minority business enterprises policy" that invited minorities to send the diocese information about their businesses. A booklet was compiled, listing these minority enterprises, and sent to all parishes, Suhy said, "not forcing but encouraging them to buy from minority businesses."

Then in 1990, with NCCIJ assistance, Cleveland refined its central office employment policy, which includes affirmative action on behalf of disabled persons as well as women and minorities of color. "We committed ourselves to certain things," Suhy said, such as recruiting people "from the Office of African-Americans, the Hispanic, Philippine and Korean communities, the Office of Women and the apostolates serving the disabled and aging." This network work "we would target to help us," he said. "And we set goals of making sure women were in the same pay scale as men," and improved record-keeping, auditing and reporting systems.

The Seattle archdiocese, like Cleveland, has long had an affirmative action program - since 1984 - and began NCCIJ-assisted improvements about three years ago. Clevelands program is limited to the central office. Seattle's is for the central office, plus a similar program for the five social-services branches that form Catholic Community Services of Western Washington. And Seattle's program is being developed to apply to parishes and schools as well. The Seattle policy applies to people of color and to women but not people with disabilities.

Irene Ward, CCS chief of staff, said the Seattle policies require affirmative action in employment, in leadership development and in purchasing and banking. "They're written in language that specifies" supervisors' tasks, such as personnel recruiting and monitoring, developing personal contacts and attending minority community open houses. We think much more personal contact" by supervisors "is the successful key to recruitment," Ward said.

Colleen Branagan, the Seattle archdiocese's personnel officer, told NCR the archdiocese has 25 salary grades, and since 1983, 70 employees - 25 percent - have had at least a two-grade increase, with 40 of those 70 having at least a three-grade increase. Among the 30 with a two-grade increase, 80 percent were women and 20 percent racial minorities, she said, and among the 40 with three or more grade increases, 80 percent were women and 20 percent racial minorities.

Ward said that besides recruiting, Seattle works on retention, to "make sure our work place is welcoming. We're doing workplace surveys, and we have a multiracial action team in place to help the rest of the organization deal positively with issues around diversity."

And Ernst said inclusiveness "should be a given to a personnel director," an "essential component of his or her training." Often "there's a perception that minorities are not available" for church jobs, be said. "One of the problems is the perception that everybody has to be Catholic," as in a Catholic school. "I respond that it's also a basic tenet of the church to promote inclusiveness, to promote respect for all people." He asks, "How does it reflect inclusiveness when you exclude people on the one basis that they have to be Catholic," even though someone else might equally or better represent Catholic values?

"I wouldn't mind so much" if the Catholic employer said, "I can only hire Catholics, so I'll have to make a special effort, because I've put on a roadblock," Ernst said. Without such conscious action, hiring "tends to be exclusionary."
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Author:Gibeau, Dawn
Publication:National Catholic Reporter
Date:Jan 22, 1993
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