Racial disparities in hiring? Just slash human rights budget

(Photo, courtesy of HIRE, shows demonstrators assembled to deliver petition to Governor Dayton.)

Last week a coalition of community organizations asked Governor Mark Dayton to veto Republican-backed legislation that will slash the Minnesota Department of Human Rights budget by a crippling 50-65 percent.  The mission of the department is to:

• investigate charges of illegal discrimination,

• ensure that businesses seeking state contracts are in compliance with equal opportunity requirements, and

• eliminate discrimination by educating Minnesotans about their rights and responsibilities under the state Human Rights Act. (MDHR website)

A press release by HIRE Minnesota, a coalition of more than 70 community organizations, protesting the cuts said, in part:

MDHR’s mission has been threatened by budget cuts for years, and the agency’s staff has been reduced by 13 full-time employees over the last eight years. As HIRE Minnesota presented its letter, signed by dozens of Minnesota residents, community organizations and coalitions, to the governor’s staff, HIRE Minnesota Founder Louis King praised the governor for pledging to hold the department’s ever-shrinking budget steady over the next biennium.

For the record, Minnesota’s record on discrimination shows the continuing need for the work of the Department of Human Rights. As reported time after time, the Twin Cities metro area has the biggest disparity in black-white unemployment rates of any major metropolitan area in the country.

The budget cuts come after a big increase in caseload last year. (That may be due in part to the transfer of the work of the Minneapolis civil rights complaints investigations arm to the State Human Rights Department.) No matter—the Republicans don’t think that the Human Rights Department needs a budget to continue its work. Or maybe they just don’t think its work needs to continue.

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