• Tue. Jul 23rd, 2024

Exclusive: Rep. Barbara Lee and CBC members’ letter addresses layoffs of Black tech employees 

U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Cali.

Democratic Congresswoman Barbara Lee of California and several other Congressional Black Caucus members have written a letter to Julie Su, the acting secretary of the U.S. Department of Labor, to address the disproportionate layoffs of Black tech employees.  

An excerpt from the letter reads, “We write to express our concerns with recent reports highlighting the impacts of widespread layoffs within the tech industry and its disproportionate impacts on the African American community and women.”

“Tech companies who previously agreed to address bias and discrimination and create greater opportunities in the workforce are now quietly defunding diversity pledges,” the letter maintained. 

U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Cali.
Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., (above) and several other Congressional Black Caucus members wrote a letter to Julie Su, the acting labor secretary, to address the disproportionate layoffs of Black tech employees. (Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images)

In 2015, the CBC launched Tech 2020 to ensure that Black Americans would be better represented in the industry by 2020. However, Lee says those Tech companies that pledged to be more inclusive are falling short of their promise.

Lee told theGrio it is important for her and fellow members of the CBC to hold the tech industry accountable.

“We’ve been fighting for justice and for economic parity and security as part of the mission of the CBC,” she said, “and so when we established Tech 2020, it was about equity and inclusion.”

“Now with all the Supreme Court decisions and with all of the backsliding, especially by Republicans, it’s very important that we be very assertive in our fight for equity and justice within the private sector and public sector,” she shared. 

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According to the letter, since the beginning of 2023, more than 240,000 tech workers have experienced layoffs, which is a more than 50 percent increase from 2022. 

Lee found that minorities and women make up most of the tech layoffs that have occurred this year.

The longtime representative told theGrio it is important that the tech industry remain diverse. 

If you don’t have African-Americans developing content,” Lee said, “then we’re going to have Black people, brown people [and] women disproportionately impacted.”

In this May photo, Nevada Rep. Steven Horsford (center), chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, leads a news conference following the CBC’s National Summit on Democracy & Race near Capitol Hill surrounded by caucus members, including Rep. Barbara Lee (far left). (Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)

“This country is supposed to be a representative democracy where you include people and you don’t discriminate against them,” she added. “When you see the disproportionate numbers of people being laid off, then that is a red flag that it could be discrimination occurring against these workers and employees.”

Lee is hopeful that the Department of Labor will respond “positively” to the CBC missive.

“The letter was sent to the secretary of labor, and it’s the federal government’s job to conduct oversight and to answer these questions,” she contended.

“I would hope that the tech companies would welcome this so that they can get their act together and make sure that they don’t disproportionately lay off African-Americans,” she noted, “which is occurring right now.”

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