By EDITORIAL BOARD
In its announcement last week, Amazon said the deciding factor for coming to Queens with one of its new headquarters was the diverse and talented workforce New York City had to offer. We often talk about the beauty of Queens’ diversity, and how welcoming people from countries all over the world has helped drive prosperity in the borough for decades. While demographics are hard to know for certain, it’s widely believed that more than half the borough is made up of people of color. Also, potentially as high as 50 percent of the population was born in another country.
Queens is an immigrant success story — and if Amazon wants to truly be a part of the identity of the borough, it should set an internal goal of hiring 15,000 people of color in its first 10 years in Queens. That would be 60 percent of the promised 25,000 jobs that are tied to the incentive package the state and city have put forth for the company.
Aiming to hire 60 percent people of color would signify that Amazon is serious about wanting to have a lasting presence in the borough, because a decade from now the borough will likely be populated by 60 percent people of color. Around the world, we are seeing a troubling rise in white nationalism, anti-Semitism, and outright racism and bigotry — often exhibited by elected leaders, not just fringe groups. This trend makes Queens’ role as an oasis for people who are being persecuted around the world for their beliefs even more important. Amazon, as a global leader in business, needs to understand this and do its part to keep the borough’s plentiful spring of freedom flowing.
One way to do this would be to pledge, even if just internally, to hire 15,000 people of color. As these deals go, asking Amazon to put this in writing, or tying the state and city benefits to this goal, is not a reasonable way to proceed. Companies need flexibility to hire the talent they feel is necessary to achieve their business goals. When subsidies limit that ability, a company can be handcuffed to the point where its profitability is harmed and long-term success hindered — which helps no one in a community.
But setting lofty goals like this is how the culture of an organization is created; it trickles down into the priorities of managers and staff. If Amazon picked Queens for its diverse talent, as it says it has, then it should embrace this goal and reach out to universities, chambers, BIDs and community groups and ask for their help in achieving it.