Thursday, May 29, 2014

Does United Way of King County Support Employment Discrimination?

Two weeks ago I wrote the United Way of King County (UWKC) to express my concerns that after 22 years of posturing they continue to fund the Boy Scouts of America (BSA), the Chief Seattle Council (CSC) and the Learning For Life (LFL) programs. Jon Fine, CEO of UWKC was kind enough to respond as follows:
May 22 , 2014

Dear Mr. McGrath,

Thank you for your support of United Way and for your letter expressing concern regarding our funding criteria as it relates to the Boy Scouts Chief Seattle Council (BSC).   In the past funding cycle, United Way of King County awarded a grant to the BSC’s Learning for Life program ‘Exploring’ associated with the outcome ‘youth and young adults gain education and work skills’.

United Way of King County makes funding decisions not on entitlement, relationships or long standing partnerships, but as part of a periodic, competitive process in which non-profit agencies apply to achieve outcomes in key areas that United Way has determined will make the greatest impact in our community.

Agencies that receive funding from United Way are required to sign a funding contract and agree to the stipulations therein, including United Way of King County’s Non-Discrimination Compliance Measures.

These contracts state that “The Contractor shall not discriminate on the basis of age, gender, race, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, presence of a disability or any other requirements of federal,  state or local law in the delivery of service. “

The Learning for Life Corporation and its Exploring program meet the criteria and do not withhold the delivery of service to any person regardless of race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, ethnic background, economic status or citizenship, and they have signed the required contract.

The Exploring program is focused on exposing middle school aged children to a range of careers and helps kids build life skills and experience at a time that is key to their development. This grant is just one of many throughout the community that is helping United Way achieve its vision that every child has an equal chance to succeed.  It is part of a continuum of care that begins with the Parent-Child Home Program for two to four year olds, continues with
programs that support middle grade success and ultimately helps the most vulnerable kids in our community graduate from high school on time and with the skills they need to succeed in life.

The funding contracts also state that “The Contractor also acknowledges and understands United Way of King County’s strong commitment to and preference for contractors to prohibit discrimination based age, gender, race, sexual orientation, national origin, religion and presence of a disability in all areas, including governance, employment or volunteer recruitment.”

United Way of King County will continue as we have consistently done to encourage all organizations including the Boy Scouts of America Chief Seattle Council to prohibit discrimination for any reason in all aspects of their business.

I appreciate your time in reaching out to us and your input.

Jon Fine
CEO United Way of King County 
Note how there is no teeth in this--that in fact employment discrimination against LGBTQ people appears to be accepted as business-as-usual. I've followed up with the following communique, and will be working to meet individually with board members in the coming week(s):
Sirs,
I'm continuing to look into the matter of the funding of BSA/CSC/LFL. There is additional information needed that will help me better communicate the scope of the problem when I meet with board members in the coming week. Can you help me gather it, or indicate who I can work with to get this information?  These are my questions: 
1. What is the level of funding of CSC/LFL provided by UWKC for each of the past 5 years?
2. Individuals can designate BSA/CSC for directed funding. How much has been designated by individuals for each of the past 5 years?
3. In what way does UWKC track contractor employment practices to ensure non-discrimination
4. What other non-religious employment discriminators besides BSA/CSC/LFL does UWKC contract with?
5. What metrics are used to regarding employment discrimination among UWKC contractors?
6. What plans to improve transparency regarding UWKC awarding contractors of employment discriminators are currently planned, what changes are expected in future? 
7. What plans if any are there to improve employment non-discrimination going forward?
8. How specifically does employment non-discrimination factor into awarding contracts? 
9. What is the contract that was awarded in the most recent funding cycle to BSA/CSC/LFL. Was the contract competitive, who else competed for the contract (specific contact information requested)?
Responsive answers to these questions will help us all improve the conditions for LGBTQ people in our county, and help establish UWKC as the leader in the nation on these issues. Additionally, similar questions are being asked of the Seattle Foundation, Seattle Public Schools, and in turn all school districts throughout the state, with the help of the Office of the Superintendent of Public Education. The era of unequal access to employment and other forms of discrimination is coming to an end, your participation secures the future.
Yours,
Geoffrey C. McGrath, MSW
LGBTQ people in specific, and fair-minded people generally are outraged at continuing practices of employment and other forms of discrimination. You can express your own feelings on this matter by contacting UWKC directly, or by reaching out to individual members of the board.