Penalize Contractor for Not Hiring Minorities

Target: Washington State Department of Transportation Secretary Lynn Peterson

Goal: Penalize company for not hiring minority-owned businesses, despite this being a requirement of its government contract

Recently in Washington State there has been much controversy about the Highway 99 tunnel project. Most of the discussion has involved the expense of the project, especially when part of the equipment was mysteriously stalled. But lately, the conversation has taken a turn for the worse. Under scrutiny now are the hiring practices of the contractor charged with building the project. The contractor is supposed to hire a certain percentage of minority-owned businesses to assist with the project, but so far has failed to do so. The company needs to be penalized harshly–not just for violating its contract, but also to show future contractors that they cannot get away with under-employing minority-owned businesses.

The percentage of minority businesses the contractor is required to hire is only eight percent, according to the contract it signed with the Department of Transportation. This includes businesses owned by people of color and/or women. It is not a huge percentage, but the contractor hired for the job, Seattle Tunnel Partners, has not even hired enough of these small minority-owned businesses to make up two percent of its overall hiring. This is blatant discrimination against minority-owned businesses. It is unacceptable, and Seattle Tunnel Partners must be punished.

For this unwillingness to obey the legal contract, the Department of Transportation needs to penalize Seattle Tunnel Partners by reducing their payment for the job and/or taking away control of hiring.


Dear Washington State Department of Transportation Secretary Lynn Peterson, As the Secretary of the Department of Transportation, you should know that the great injustice occurring right now in Seattle is absolutely unacceptable. As part of its contract, Seattle Tunnel Partners promised to hire a certain percentage of minority-owned businesses for subcontract jobs. The exact required percentage was eight percent, but so far the real number of people they have hired who qualify is less than two percent.

This is not oversight, either. Some minority business owners claim that they have repeatedly met with the company, but have never received an actual job offer. It seems a lot like Seattle Tunnel Partners is dragging its feet and unwilling to hire out to minority-owned businesses, even though it is part of the contract. This kind of absolute and blatant disregard for the part of the contract that protects and provides for minority-owned businesses is unacceptable.

It is horrible that even in 2014 minority-owned businesses are still struggling to find work, even when companies are contracted to specifically provide work for them. Seattle Tunnel Partners needs to be penalized for its behavior. Its payment for the job needs to be docked, and/or hiring power for subcontract positions needs to be taken away from this company.


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Photo credit: Joseph McLean via Wikimedia

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