By Ronald W. Weathersby
NASHVILLE, TN — The Tennessee Tribune has learned that of 1,545 Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County employees in the upper pay grades only 255 are African-Americans. That number represents 16.5% of upper level employees throughout the local government. According to the U.S. Census Bureau 27.9% of Davidson County residents are African-American. Blacks make up 13.6% of the civilian workforce in the county. The pay grades that were surveyed were SR12-SR16; PS06 and above; C04, and DP which pay roughly between $50,000 to nearly one-quarter of a million dollars annually.
According to Rita Roberts-Turner, Metro Human Resources Director, “… The Metro pay grade typically reflects classifications for a host of supervisory, management and executive level positions.”
The numbers include every Metro department excluding the Airport and School District. Roberts-Turner, says the municipal government does all it can to increase diversity in its work force.
“We of course recognize the value of a diverse workforce and many departments strive to promote from within and support workforce development to enable their staff members to pursue greater opportunities both inside and outside of Metro,” Roberts-Turner wrote in an email. “When you look at the total Nashville labor force, as compiled by the U.S. Census Bureau, under the listed job categories you’ll see the racial breakdown and how they correlate to our 18.5% specifically that for the types of jobs in question, minority representation is considerably higher than the overall Nashville labor market.”
Latino and Asian/Pacific Islander employment in the categories account for roughly one-percent each of the total.
In 2004, former Metro Councilman Sam Coleman sponsored an Ordinance requiring all departments, boards, and commissions to develop an implementation plan pursuant to Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, and national origin in programs and activities receiving federal financial assistance.
By way of example, Councilman Coleman submitted the State of Tennessee’s Title VI Implementation Plan. Title VI applies to Metro functions that receive federal funding. Title V I also applies to services provided by sub recipients that receive federal financial assistance through Metro.
The city’s stated goal is that all services be administered in a nondiscriminatory manner. Although there are no assertions that there is any discrimination at this time there may be serious questions about Metro’s efforts to equitably open the doors to its prime positions to all people.
Roberts-Turner alluded to the fact that municipal employees in Nashville seem to hold on to their positions long-term as a factor in the relatively tepid numbers. “Metro on average both historically and currently has less than a 10% turnover rate.”
Metro’s African-American supervisory personnel tend to make less money than their white counterparts also. In the Metro Public Library all African American supervisors are at pay grades with a salary cap of approximately $88,000 annually while whites in that personnel group have salaries ranging up to $108,000 per year.
Although on the surface Metro’s numbers are noble in the EEOC Report to Metro elected officials most of the higher level black employees in Metro are grouped in such departments as Fire, Police, Metro Action Commission, Social Services and Water Services where over half of all black supervisory personnel are employed. Several key Metro Departments have low numbers of non-white employees in high paying positions.