During World War II, Ellen Doren's mother "came out of the kitchen" and went to work as head of a department. When the war ended, "she was sent back to the kitchen. The men were home and needed the job. My mother hadn't changed."
Her world had.Doren, Utah Pay Equity Coalition, was one of more than a dozen Utahns who spoke in favor of a bill that would require creation of an affirmative-action plan in state government.
The measure received unanimous support from the House Human Services Standing Committee following testimony Tuesday morning. HB89 would not require companies to hire under-qualified people because they are members of minorities. Instead, it would help employers give meaningful consideration to minorities and women, said its sponsor, Rep. Joanne R. Milner, D-Salt Lake.
Most states adopted Affirmative Action plans after the Civil Rights Act was signed in 1964. Utah has never had such a plan, Milner said.
Urging lawmakers to "expand your circle to the point where you can accept affirmative action as a positive word and not a negative word," Lenoris Bush, Salt Lake NAACP, said that Utah is the "only state that has never filed a state civil rights act."
The measure is necessary, said advocate Joe Duke-Rosati, Salt Lake Community Action Program. Minorities are more likely to live in poverty in Utah, according to statistics he presented to the panel. Of single-mother families, 42 percent live in poverty. Of blacks, poverty affects 29 percent, as well as 19 percent of Hispanics, 23 percent of Asians, 36 percent of Indians and only 9 percent of whites.
"It doesn't mean giving special favors to anyone; it's good management," said Orlando Rivera, a member of the Hispanic community.
In his years as a state social worker, Roger Williams said that he was often the only Indian and one of two or three minority members in his office.
"Under the plan, the most qualified person will still be hired," said Cheryl Jolley, an attorney and member of the National Organization of Women. "But recruitment of minorities will take place. You may believe that most of the wrongs of the past have been corrected. . . . Discrimination is usually an act of omission. It's the law of inertia - the all-too-human resistance to change."
An affirmative-action plan would also help people with disabilities, said Sherry Repscher, director for the Governor's Committee on Employment for Persons with Disabilities. Most people with disabilities want to work, but about two-thirds of them are unemployed.
"Disability doesn't get a person a job. Skills get it," Repscher said.