A message from the Employment Security Department.
Please Read: Reflections from this past week & weekend and actions related to equity, diversity and inclusion
<A message to All ESD Staff>
Please read all the way through
“Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.” - James Baldwin
I am compelled, from my heart, to address our agency in the wake of this past week’s events and I recognize that, no matter what I write, it will be insufficient.
How do I even begin to speak about what has been happening across our nation and which hit a new level this weekend? I’m outraged. I’m appalled. I’m shocked.
No – I need to start by saying: I’m white. I have no idea what it feels like to be Black or African-American in our nation. I get the privilege of a pass – most of the time – and it’s not fair that others, because of their skin color, do not get the same benefit of the doubt. They just get the doubt.
Our values lens features “equity, diversity and inclusion” – but what does that really mean? How do we not just have it on a poster and not just include words in an email – but rather bring it to life and act on it – for our workplace AND our work? We have taken some strong actions for some communities, but we need to do so for all communities!
I also know that this is the beginning of PRIDE month and want to be mindful of the injustice that continues to exist for many marginalized communities. Those who identify as both a person of color and LGBTQ+ are at even greater risk of danger.
What has impressed me about this agency is that everyone I’ve met is a person of purpose. You care – deeply. You feel – deeply. And you want to make the lives of those around you better. I realize that this email may make some people uncomfortable. However, to find a path to an environment and community where we all can be our best and most authentic selves and have the greatest positive impact, we will need to find a way to acknowledge and work through that discomfort.
After each of these myriad incidents – whether it’s headline-making tragic murders like those of Ahmad Aubrey, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Trayvon Martin, Charleena Lyles, Eric Garner OR a distrustful glance in aisle 3 of the grocery store — there are “thoughts and prayers,” but no follow-up with profound change.
What was even more heart breaking for me this weekend was that peaceful protests to try to bring about awareness and change and to open our hearts were then perverted by others to shatter our cities and our streets.
Right now, words can serve only to lay the groundwork for the actions we need to take - actions that will impact our agency and, given our agency’s role in the state, our communities.
My first action is to say I’m sorry. I am in a position of power and I have failed to do enough. For example, we have on our organizational “wish list” a position to lead diversity, equity and inclusion. While many people have done amazing work covering this load, we should have dedicated resources. We need “equity driven” as well as data-driven, decisions here. We can no longer wait to find the budget for this role and I am making this position a priority. We will begin recruiting as quickly as possible.
My second action is to set up a team from across our agency to work with our Employee Engagement Advisory Team and other state leaders to develop a racial equity plan for our agency AND for the communities we serve.
My third action is to listen to my amazing Chief of Human Resources, Michaela Doelman, whose email below brought me to tears. With her recommendation, we as an agency will be formally recognizing Juneteenth as a holiday. Anyone who wishes to use their leave to celebrate Juneteenth will have their leave automatically approved.
While it should go without saying that ESD does not tolerate racism or discrimination of any kind, we can no longer have this go without saying. So let me emphasize and state unequivocally: the Employment Security Department does not and will not tolerate racism or discrimination of any kind – whether it’s within our agency or whether it’s with those we serve.
Thank you all for your grace your patience and, most importantly, your actions to bring to life ALL of our values from our values lens. This will ensure we deliver on the “ALL” within our agency vision of the Nation’s best and most future ready workforce with opportunities for ALL.
Commissioner, the Employment Security Department
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