Federal report raises new questions about discrimination
Amid new reports of possible discrimination at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and two other national weapons labs, UC Berkeley ethnic studies professor Ling-chi Wang says he will press ahead with an Asian American boycott of the facilities, but hopes to end it soon.
Wang is calling for Asian Americans to abstain from seeking employment with the national labs.
Last month the General Accounting Office, the investigative wing of the U.S. Congress, released a report finding that between 1998 and 2000 salaries for minority men and women and white women at the labs were generally lower than those of white men.
The paper also noted that women of every ethnicity earned less than their male counterparts of the same ethnicity.
The report made no judgment on whether discrimination played a role in the disparities, but Wang said the evidence is clear.
“Everything I’ve been saying has been substantiated and reinforced by the GAO report,” said Wang, who launched the boycott in March 2000 in reaction to the Wen Ho Lee spy case.
In addition to Lawrence Livermore, the study examined Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico and Sandia National Laboratory, operated by Lockheed Martin, which has facilities in California and New Mexico.
The University of California runs Lawrence Livermore and Los Alamos.
Weapons lab officials dispute the validity of the GAO report. Los Alamos spokesperson Kevin Roark said the analysis fails to take vital considerations such as education and years of service into account in comparing salaries.
“They were constantly comparing apples and oranges and making exceptions for strawberries,” said Roark, noting that a study commissioned by Los Alamos a year-and-a-half ago found no salary discrepancies for Asian/Pacific Islanders.
Lawrence Livermore spokesperson Lynda Seaver said the study did not include enough employees in its managerial job category and as a result, underestimated the number of minority managerial promotions.
In March, Wang and federal officials said they were close to an agreement that would reform hiring and promotion practices at the labs in exchange for an end to the boycott. Wang said he would even work with the labs to recruit more Asian American scientists.
But last week, Wang told the Planet that he is still awaiting final approval. Roark said the National Nuclear Security Administration of the U.S. Department of Energy, which oversees all three labs, is still reviewing the agreement.
Wang said there are three basic issues at the labs: racial profiling, salary disparities and discrimination in recruitment, promotion and participation in coveted research projects.
Seaver acknowledged that minority recruitment is “an ongoing issue,” but said the lab “has stepped up a number of recruitment efforts.”
“We want a diverse workforce, so we have to reach out to them,” she said, describing augmented campus outreach.
The GAO report found that in 2000, 19 percent of employees at Lawrence Livermore were minorities, compared with 27 percent at Sandia and 34 percent at Los Alamos.
“We’re certainly looking to have a workforce that reflects our community,” said Seaver, arguing that, while employment figures were low a decade ago, the lab has seen a “nice, steady increase” in minority employment in recent years.
According to the GAO report, 18 percent of Lawrence Livermore staff were minorities in 1995, compared with 19 percent in 2000, with slight increases of Asian Americans and Latinos and slight decreases of African Americans and Native Americans.