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Jim Crow-era regulations created for the express purpose of denying blacks economic opportunity are still on the books and must be repealed to promote black prosperity, according to the Project 21 black leadership network in its forthcoming "Blueprint for a Better Deal for Black America."
Recommendations in Project 21's Blueprint meant to encourage employment opportunities for black communities are being released just after the U.S. Department of Labor' Bureau of Labor Statistics announced its April jobs report.
While the latest jobs report indicates that the overall black unemployment rate is at an all-time low (6.6 percent in April, according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics), it remains above the overall unemployment rate of 3.9 percent. There is also a three-point disparity between overall black and white unemployment, and black teen unemployment is an unacceptably high 29 percent.
Employment policy proposals found in Project 21's dynamic new Blueprint aim to enhance the competitiveness of black workers and the marketability of unskilled, at-risk youth.
In seeking improved black employment figures, Project 21 calls for a repeal of the 1931 Davis-Bacon Act in its Blueprint. It notes that the Davis-Bacon Act, which requires contractors to pay "prevailing wages" for most federal construction projects, was originally designed to prevent non-union blacks from competing with white union workers and "continues to serve its original purpose" today.
Project 21's Blueprint also calls for reducing or eliminating the minimum wage in special low-income zip codes. Like the Davis-Bacon Act, the federal minimum wage law was originally designed to deny blacks opportunity. It was first included in the 1933 National Recovery Act (NRA) during the presidency of Franklin D. Roosevelt. It was derided by black leaders at the time as the "Negro Removal Act."
"The most effective means of ending race divisions in America is to have a robust growing economy – one that allows all Americans to have a taste of the American Dream," said Project 21 Co-Chairman Horace Cooper, the former chief of staff of the U.S. Department of Labor's Employment Standards Administration. "There has been record progress for blacks under the Trump Administration, but there is so much more potential in the free market. Solutions that build on the private sector will be more significant and more enduring."
In late April, Project 21 leaders began briefing key staff at the White House and in congressional leadership about the 57 policy ideas – spread out over 10 subject areas and covering education, criminal justice, economics and more – found in its "Blueprint for a Better Deal for Black America."
There are five specific proposals for a better deal in employment policy for black Americans that create incentives and remove barriers to work:
"Project 21's 'Blueprint for a Better Deal for Black America' can help President Trump fulfill his promise to help black communities. It lays out a comprehensive agenda for reducing, discouraging and eliminating restrictions that make black workers less attractive to prospective employers," said Project 21 member Derryck Green, who has authored a monthly jobs-related economic analysis for Project 21. "Giving employers greater ability to set wages, to make them proportionate to applicants' experience and skillsets, would certainly help in economic deserts where people most need jobs but often lack the skills and experience necessary to be competitive."
"As the owner of a small construction-related business for over two decades, I have personally seen the positive effects new jobs bring to economically depressed communities," added Project 21 member Kevin Martin, a U.S. Navy veteran whose company specializes in environmental remediation. "As the one doing the hiring, I have been proud to bring aboard unskilled workers who learned a trade and eventually moved on to bigger and better jobs. It's like the old biblical maxim about giving a man a fish – one will feed him for a day, but teaching him to fish provides him with a bounty that shall be limitless!"
Cooper added: "There's nothing like the independence you get from a good high-paying job. Instead of trying to divide the pie along racial lines, let's make sure there's so much pie that everyone gets what they want."
Each Monday between now and July 7, Project 21 will release reform recommendations from its "Blueprint for a Better Deal for Black America" covering a specific subject area. The tentative release schedule is as follows:
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