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Published: Monday, 5/22/2006

'Affirmative action' may receive new moniker

BY TOM TROY
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Many a coffee-break conversation has started over the mere mention of affirmative action.

But "workplace equity"?

A proposal from Toledo Mayor Carty Finkbeiner's administration would change the name of the city's Office of Affirmative Action/Contract Compliance to the Department of Workplace Equity.

Perlean Griffin, the executive director of the office, said she proposed the name change because of what she said is the misconception that "affirmative action" is just for African-Americans.

"We want to be welcoming and inviting to all employees of the city of Toledo. Many people feel it is just one group of people," Ms. Griffin said.

She said workplace equity tells the public that the city treats everyone equally regardless of their race, ethnicity, age, disability, or sexual orientation.

The change would have to be approved as an ordinance by Toledo City Council.

At its agenda review meeting last week, City Council asked the administration to do more research on whether the term affirmative action is being abolished by any other cities or companies.

Johnny Mickler, president of the Greater Toledo Urban League, said he doesn't see the need for a name change.

He said if the public is misinformed, then an education effort is called for. Mr. Mickler said there is a continuing need for affirmative action because the United States still is not a color-blind society.

David Taylor, a lawyer and a former president of the Toledo chapter of the NAACP, said the move appears aimed at watering down the mission of the office.

"Affirmative action by its very nature is controversial because it seeks to dismantle the good-old-boy network by challenging the status quo," Mr. Taylor said.

The name change would also elevate the agency to a cabinet-level department.

The office of affirmative action/contract compliance has the executive director, two equal employment opportunity investigators, a contract compliance specialist, and a secretary. Its total annual payroll is $237,953.

The office evaluates employee discrimination complaints and enforces the city's minority contracting goals.

According to its monthly report for May, highlights for the month included resolving four equal employment opportunity complaints, of which three were dismissed and one was settled with a transfer.

The office also took part in ensuring that Mosser Construction subcontracted 12.3 percent of a new $16 million contract under the Toledo Waterways Initiative to minority businesses.

Contact Tom Troy at: tomtroy@theblade.com or 419-724-6058.



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