Construction contractors like to hire people. It is an indication they are making money or gearing up to make money. State and federal governments don’t have to twist the arms of contractors to employ skilled workers and people capable of learning skills.
Where the arm-twisting comes in is in who a contractor—or any other employer—hires. It is not enough to employ capable people. At the end of the day, there must also be a certain mix of people employed to quantify the promise of America as a land of equal opportunity.
This is not a rant against affirmative action policies, which were rolled out in good-faith response to decades of overt discrimination against minorities, principally African-American. The mechanics of the fair-minded policies were broadened to include other minority communities and women. The initiative undoubtedly increased opportunity.
However, this progressive train has been run off the tracks a few times by engineers who don’t know how to ease off on the throttle. It has led to instances of fixed quotas, hiring of underqualified tokens, resentment, diminished self-esteem, and other perverse results.
Another legacy of the policy is the hiring of veterans. Who wouldn’t want to hire capable veterans, especially any who have given up years of their lives to help buttress the nation’s security? Giving such men or women a chance to earn a living is the right thing to do. It also can be the smart thing to do because military service often instills much-needed workplace ethics.
The latest hiring rules for contractors and subcontractors take effect in March and add to regulations about employing veterans and disabled job applicants. The provisions include “hiring benchmarks” and, in the case of the disabled, a “7 percent goal.” Another word for these is quotas, which can be very problematic.
Employers can be expected, by and large, to follow these rules. The problem lies in the bureaucratic expectation of compliance—that is, meeting mandated goals. When a bureaucrat is disappointed, the rules suddenly aren’t so benign. Good luck to earnest employers and capable job-seekers: May you find one another with minimal hassle.