I’d written a story for today’s editions about the federal lawsuit filed yesterday by San Diego Associated General Contactors against Caltrans, claiming the transportation department’s Disadvantaged Business Enterprise program is unfairly setting racial and gender quotas for federally-funded contracts.
This afternoon, I received a statement decrying that lawsuit from the Center for Policy Initiatives, a San Diego-based nonprofit “dedicated to the interests of working people in the San Diego region,” according to its Web site. “Through research, community organizing and outreach, we seek policy change to promote economic justice and raise workers from poverty to the middle class.”
“The need is clearly demonstrated and growing” for programs like DBE, said CPI research and policy director Murtaza Baxamusa; in 2005, 90 percent of all federal contracts were awarded to companies owned by white males, and in 2008 that number increased to 95 percent.
Programs like DBE help address this disparity, stimulating economic recovery in places where people of color and other disadvantaged workers live, the center claims.
“The AGC has gone too far this time, putting self-interest ahead of true economic recovery,” CPI Executive Director Donald Cohen said. “This lawsuit undermines the intent of the economic stimulus money to help disadvantaged communities get on their feet.”
The center’s news release accuses the AGC of a history of actions “harmful to working families and communities of color” such as opposing policies providing prevailing wages, overtime pay for excessive hours, and equal opportunity for all subcontractors to work on City of San Diego contracts.
“Our economy cannot recover unless we move forward quickly with targeted actions to lift people out of poverty,” Cohen said. “It’s time for the contractors’ lobby to get out of the way.”