U.S. Labor Secretary Perez addresses workforce bias in WNY

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB)- U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez spoke to Western New Yorkers Tuesday night about preventing bias in the workforce.

Secretary Perez said employers need to realize every person is talented and not to discriminate based on race, gender or criminal background.

He also voiced support for a new coalition of community groups including Catholic Charities and VOICE Buffalo, which will offer support to job seekers. The coalition plans to train refugees, create a pipeline to help African Americans get construction jobs, and go on interviews with job seekers to advocate on their behalf.

“Unemployment is disproportionately represented in African American and Hispanic communities,” said Dennis Walczyk, the CEO of Catholic Charities. “Refugees are coming more and more to the City of Buffalo. We are the number one city in New York State in terms of resettling refugees, they are disproportionately underrepresented in the job market.”

Walczyk said these minorities are being left behind as Buffalo experiences its renaissance. Recent studies, including one by the Partnership for the Public Good, show more than 35 percent of African Americans and Hispanics live below the poverty line in the Buffalo-Niagara region.

“We need to understand some folks have game but they don’t have transportation and so we meet them where we find them,” said U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez. “We need to understand some people have game but they need help with childcare.”

Secretary Perez spoke to a packed room of Western New Yorkers about how to prevent workforce inequality.

He said, “by investing in apprenticeship, by working with our friends in organized labor and making sure there are pre-apprenticeship programs and they’re open to African Americans, they’re open to women, they’re open to Latinos, they’re open to former offenders.”

We asked Mayor Byron Brown if enough is being done to help minorities escape poverty in Buffalo. He told News 4 more needs to be done but there has been progress.

“The city is looking at creating an apprenticeship program itself for the construction trades,” said Mayor Brown. “We’re also looking at a program to put at-risk youth. We’ve been working with other partners to put the at risk youth into a training program and then into work.”

Mayor Brown said they are also working with Governor Cuomo and state legislators on what he calls a “strike force concept” that will be announced soon. He said “it’s another way of reaching people who are looking for employment.”


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