Giving Compass' Take:
- Terry L. Jones sheds light on how white workers are more often hired for oil and gas industry jobs located in communities of color.
- What are the root causes of communities of color being subjected to disproportionate pollution? How is this inequity compounded by racial disparities in oil and gas hiring?
- Learn more about racial disparities in air pollution exposure.
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There’s an unspoken promise when an industry moves into any community: We will disrupt your lives, but in exchange we will provide good-paying jobs.
Except, according to new research shared exclusively with Floodlight, in Louisiana’s majority Black communities in the area known as “Cancer Alley” because of its high concentration of polluting industries, the majority of jobs go to white workers. Similar disparities occur in minority-dominant communities along Texas’s Gulf Coast, where the majority of workers are white.
“If one group gets all the pollution and another group gets all the jobs, it’s not really a trade-off anymore,” said Kimberly Terrell, director of community engagement and a staff scientist with the Tulane University Environmental Law Clinic who led the research team.
The highest disparity was found in St. John the Baptist Parish, home to the third-largest oil refinery in the nation, and plants that make neoprene and absorbent material for diapers.
There, people of color represent nearly 70 percent of the working-age population but make up only 28 percent of the manufacturing workforce, according to initial data from Tulane. That disparity is even greater with respect to higher-paying jobs, such as managers, sales workers, and technicians. Minorities hold only 19 percent of those positions.
“I would hear the people here say, ‘These plants keep coming but they’re not hiring Black people,’” said retired educator Stephanie Aubert, who is Black and lives in St. John the Baptist Parish. “They’ll hire people from outside the parish before they hire us. That’s what they do to us.”
The second-highest disparity was found in Jefferson County, Texas, where minorities represent 59 percent of the working-age population but make up only 28 percent of the manufacturing workforce, according to the data.
Industry representatives who responded to Floodlight say they are working to increase diversity. Louisiana’s economic development agency, which gives industry generous incentives to locate in the state, says their hiring requirements don’t include any racial or location requirements.
Read the full article about racial disparities in oil and gas hiring by Terry L. Jones at Grist.