At a September 14th Multnomah County Board of County Commissioners meeting, powerful public testimony from employees who described their experiences at Multnomah County were a reflection of what the county had already been experiencing. These stories were amplified by the high level dismissal of an African American Public Health Director, and were the qualitative representation of employee surveys indicating that people of color and other marginalized groups were having negative experiences throughout the county government. While the county has centered racial equity in their work externally, it was obvious that internally the organization was falling short in everyday practice. It was a catalytic moment for the organization, and it reflected incredible courage from employees who told their stories. Since that day, the Office of Diversity and Equity (ODE) has worked with Employee Resource Groups to move forward with the process of developing a Workforce Equity Strategy for Multnomah County.
In reflecting on the work since September, Chief Diversity and Equity Officer Ben Duncan said, “I remain moved and committed to ground this initiative in our core equity values, namely, the importance of centering the voices and experiences of those most impacted by inequities and injustice in the development of strategies that affect those employees. For us, that means we are looking to our Employee Resource Groups, comprised of many hundreds of employees who identify as employees and managers of color, employees with disabilities, LGBTQ employees, veterans, immigrants and refugees. Our belief is that when those of us who are most impacted by organizational barriers are both informing and creating strategic policy recommendations, our outcomes will best reflect all of our needs.”
Currently, the county is engaged in the next step towards finding a solution to its internal workforce inequities. Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury has led the county to signing a resolution that named the counties racial inequities and holds the county accountable for its actions. Alongside the resolution, the county has set in motion a process to develop a strategic plan that focuses on stakeholder collaboration and aims to advance workforce equity, eliminate barriers to equal employment, and improve job satisfaction for employees who have not enjoyed equal levels of job satisfaction. Chair Kafoury has set a spring 2018 deadline to begin seeing significant progress.