Federal and state enforcement of employment law has been scaled back dramatically over the past three decades in the face of tightening budgets and outright hostility toward workers’ rights from some elected officials. Furthermore, the working world has changed enormously making traditional means of enforcing workplace law less and less effective. Unfortunately, inaction in most states has left cities and counties as the only viable options for strengthening workplace laws and providing critical worker protection.
Though the vast majority of rules relating to civil rights issues are addressed by federal and state legislation and regulation, cities play a vital role in the implementation of laws and policies ensuring the protection of public health, safety, and general welfare; maintaining good open government; and providing every individual with an equal opportunity to participate fully in city life.
Cities not only play a significant role in eliminating discrimination, but also in eliminating less obvious barriers to social and political participation related to real or perceived fears and concerns and the unseen or misunderstood needs of residents. Cities should proactively support community members, particularly those who may find it difficult to express their concerns, fears, and needs. They should also actively seek community feedback to make sure that all areas of the community are represented.
Safeguarding the rights and safety of city residents and ensuring equal treatment and universal access to city life is critical to maintaining a vibrant and successful community. In order to accomplish this, cities must eliminate local discrimination and protect against destructive practices at the federal and state levels. At the same time, they should encourage residents to participate socially and politically through proactive policies, services, and programs with the goal of greater access and universal integration into city life.