Rep. Alan Green

State Rep. Alan Green, D-Florissant, wants Gov. Mike Parson to stop overlooking minority-owned businesses in the manufacture and distribution of personal protective equipment (PPE) in the face of the COVID-19 crisis. 

“I have received communications that concerned me about the lack of effort being made by Office of Administration to pursue business opportunities with Minority, Women and Disadvantaged Business Enterprise companies to source PPE and other vital supply and service needs during the state’s massive COVID-19 response,” Green wrote in a letter to Office of Administration Commissioner Sarah Steelman on Thursday, April 9.

“We can see from the data that this pandemic is disproportionately impacting African-American communities, particularly highly dense pockets of North St. Louis County.”

Parson was asked to comment on April 9; his response will be reported if received.

Statistics from St. Louis County have identified a higher concentration of COVID-19 cases in North St. Louis County. While black St. Louisans are feeling a disproportionate impact of this disease on their health, Green said that community should not experience a disproportionate impact financially as well.

“As a former director of the State’s office of Equal Opportunity, I know firsthand the challenges these sorts of businesses face,” Green said. “Many businesses are struggling to stay solvent during these difficult times, especially our small businesses. Hardship is already being felt by both business owners and those they employ. The financial implications from a community stability perspective are enormous.”

Of the 9,000 businesses in the North St. Louis County area, Green said that 85 percent are small businesses. He urged Parson to utilize some of the unprecedented spending authority granted to him on April 8 by the Missouri General Assembly – nearly $6 billion – to support working families and minority-owned businesses

“We have an obligation to help our local businesses during this difficult time,” Green urged.

‘Civil rights are non-negotiable’

Nationally, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law is making a similar effort.

On April 7, 2020 a coalition of 56 civil rights and workers’ rights organizations led by the committee sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) to oppose the department’s decision to temporarily exempt and waive affirmative action obligations under new supply, service, and construction federal contracts for COVID-19 relief.

The letter highlights that the pandemic and its economic repercussions are disproportionately impacting people of color and other historically marginalized communities and urges the federal government to do everything to ensure that federal contractors responding to COVID-19 are affirmatively recruiting and promoting all employment opportunities to those most impacted.

The letter also outlines the critical obligations under Executive Order 11246 and federal statutes that have been waived. These laws require government contractors to undertake affirmative efforts to ensure that equal opportunity is provided in all aspects of employment, including recruitment and hiring. 

The exemptions not only apply to federal contractors, but also to the subcontractors with whom they do business. The waivers will undoubtedly discourage covered employers responding to the coronavirus pandemic from casting a wide net to recruit diverse workers from historically underrepresented populations.  They will also keep contractor and subcontractor workers and their union representatives in the dark about their legal rights and make enforcement of affirmative action regulations even more difficult. 

“Communities of color and other marginalized communities are disproportionately feeling the economic shocks of this pandemic,” said Dariely Rodriguez, director of the Economic Justice Project at the committee. "Civil rights are non-negotiable and we must do everything to ensure that limited employment opportunities are being targeted at those who need them the most.” 

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