Congresswoman Barbara Lee Rings The Alarm In An Open Letter Amid Major Layoffs Of Black Tech Employees

The current job market has people on a roller coaster of expectations. With shifts across several industries, layoffs have been a large part of the uncertainty many people have experienced in the present landscape.

The tech industry, particularly, has faced much criticism during this frustrating time as many of the tech giants announced major layoffs disproportionately affecting BIPOC individuals and women. The trend has become so pervasive that U.S. Congresswoman Barbara Lee has led the charge in calling out the impacts of the layoffs.

The Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) launched the CBC TECH2020 initiative in May 2015, designed to gather “the best minds in the tech, non-profit, education, and public sectors to chart a path forward to increase African American inclusion at all levels of the technology industry,” according to its website.

Many organizations have acknowledged the lack of representation in the tech industry and created initiatives to address it — some publicly announcing large-scale investments and programs to recruit, retain, and mobilize diverse talent.

CBC TECH2020 was the governmental support of this work and, as a result of continued need, extended its efforts to proceed as CBC TECH2025.

Congresswoman Lee, who is co-chair of this initiate, has penned a letter to Acting U.S. Secretary of Labor Julie Su to address the recent widespread layoffs, particularly those that occurred throughout 2023.

Lee was joined in writing the letter by her CBC TECH2025 co-chair, Missouri Congressman Emanuel Cleaver II, as well as the CBC Future of Work Taskforce co-chairs, Representatives Lauren Underwood (Illinois-14th District) and Lisa Blunt Rochester (Delaware-At Large District).

According to Lee’s Congressional website, over 240,000 people have been laid off from the tech industry since the top of 2023. Of that number, women and minority professionals were “vastly overrepresented.”

“We are deeply concerned about the short and long-term impact these layoffs will have on the industry’s racial, ethnic, and gender diversity and would like to ensure women and members of the African American community are not disproportionately nor discriminatorily harmed by recent layoffs,” a portion of the letter stated.

The major thrust of CBC TECH2025 is to hold the tech industry accountable to ensure equitable practices and placement of diverse talent.

“We’ve been fighting for justice and for economic parity and security as part of the mission of the CBC,” Lee told The Grio in a statement. “And so when we established Tech 2020, it was about equity and inclusion.”

Looking for a positive response from the Department of Labor, the letter is penned after a critical year of decreasing inclusivity in the tech space.

According to a previous report from AFROTECH, Tesla was hit with a lawsuit from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission for years of documented discriminatory practices against Black employees.

Meta was also reportedly sued for discriminatory hiring practices and illegal layoffs. All of this happened against the backdrop of the U.S. Supreme Court striking down significant parts of affirmative action policies during the summer of 2023.

Despite these challenges, Lee and her colleagues are hopeful that change can and will occur.

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

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