Affirmative Action in Employing Women and Minorities

Affirmative Action in Employing Women and Minorities

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Affirmative Action Thesis: Although many people believe that affirmative Action is a form of racism, it is actually used to help minorities find employment in an otherwise racist world. “In the United States, equality is a recurring theme. It has flared into a fervent moral issue at crucial stages of American history: The revolutionary and Jacksonian Period, and the New Deal. In each era, the legitimacy of American society is challenged by some set of people unhappy with the degree of equality” (Verba and Orren). Following the Civil War, Congress passed a number of laws designed to put former slaves on an equal level with white people. The Fourteenth Amendment made the freedmen citizen and prohibited states from enforcing any law which took away the privliges of any citizen, depriving men of life, liberty, or property without due process of the law, or denied men equal protection of the laws. In 1875, Republican majority in Congress, aware that reconstruction would soon end, passed a civil right act to secure by law semblance of equality for Black Americans (Urofsky 19). Many white Americans really did not like the idea of equality for the Black Freedmen. “Gideon Welles, who had been prevailing sentiment when he wrote in 1871: ‘Thank God slavery is abolished, but the Negro is not, and never can be the equal of the white man. He is of an inferior race and must always remain so’”(Urofsky 23). The supreme court agreed and in 1883 passed the Civil Rights act which diluted much of th! e protection of the Fourteenth Amendment. Justice Joseph Bradely interpreted the enforcement provision of the amendment as strictly remedial; “congress has the power to remedy a discriminatory state law, but could not take affirmative steps to protect blacks from other forms of prejudice” (Urofsky 21). As a result of this decision, the federal government took no action to combat racism in the country until the second world war (Urofsky 22). Because resentment continued to increase within the black communities and because of the threat of a march on Washington, President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued an executive order on June 25, 1941. This order directed African Americans to be accepted into job-training programs in defense plants. The order also stated that discrimination would not be excepted by employers holding defense contracts. It also set up a fair employment practice commissions to investigate charges of racial discrimination.

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Harry Truman and Dwight Eisenhower continued to enforce fair employment legislation after Roosevelt’s policies because Congress was unwilling to do so. In 1954, the supreme court decision Brown v. Board of Education pressured both houses of Congress and the executive office to take some positive steps on behalf of civil rights. In January 1961, John F. Kennedy took office. Almost immediately Roy Wilkins of the NAACP called for action to promote employment opportunities for African Americans. John F. Kennedy responded with executive order 10925, which created a presidential commission on equal employment opportunity; it also mandated federal contractors to take “Affirmative Action” to ensure that there would be no discrimination by “race, creed, color or nationality.” This was not the first time that the government ordered it own contractors not only to avoid discrimination, but to take positive steps to redress the effects of discrimination in society. In some cases contractors were asked to pay employees doing similar work, the same amount of pay. Without congressional action an executive order could only last so long, and in 1963 Kennedy secured passage of the Equal Pay Act. The Equal Pay Act prohibited employers from paying women less than men for the same work. “A short time later due to the assassination of kennedy Lyndon B. Johnson called for the passage of the Civil Rights Bill as a memorial to the late president kennedy. Lyndon B. Johnson skillfully guided and expanded versions of kennedy’s proposal through the house and senate. The Civil Rights Act was signed into law July 2, 1964. Title VII of the act banned employment discrimination based on “race, color, sex, and nationality,” it also created a permanent equal employment opportunity commission to enforce its provisions. The act also for the first time included obligations not to discriminate to private employees, labor unions, and governmental agencies.(Urofsky 17). In executive order 11246, issued on September 24, 1965, Johnson require that federal contractors take affirmative action to recruit, hire, and promote more minorities. Two years later in executive order 11375 Johnson added women to the group covered by previous anti- discrimination order” (Urofsky17). Each new order was a modification of the previous one. Increasing minorities’ and women’s chances to compete in the job market. When Richard Nixon took office in 1969, he asked Art Fletcher, the Assistant Secretary of Labor and a black man himself, to find a way to enforce the hiring provisions of Title VII in a way that it would withstand court challenge. Fletcher did, and in 1971 Nixon unveiled the Philadelphia Plan. The Philadelphia Plan made federal contractors meet specific numerical goals in hiring minorities. Each contractor was to have nine percent of its work force be made up of minorities and women. Even with all these Executive Orders, Civil Rights Act, and Amendments passed, only a small percent of minorities held position in the job force. In recent years, in order to combat job discrimination in the employment market, the federal government has issued a series of executive orders and have established government funded firms to secure equal opportunity in the work force. Affirmative action and other executive orders were created to insert qualified minorities in the job market, but in recent years it has been used to deter job discrimination from happening. Yet society’s viewpoint on Affirmative Action has been a way for the federal government to favor one class of people over another. The fact is, that in order to use Affirmative Action to favor minorities and women against “white males” in the workplace, jobs must first be integrated with both minorities and whites. For no one can separate apples and oranges if there are no apples! In the case of Firefighters Local Union No. 1784 v. Stotts (1984). The Memphis fire department was found in violation of Title VII and was under court order to hire and promote more blacks to make amends for past discrimination. Later, anticipating a budget deficit, the city planned to lay off public employees with the least seniority, and that action would have mostly affected recently hired black firemen. Stotts, a black fireman challenging the proposed personnel actions, received a favorable decision from the federal court, which granted an injunction enjoining the Fire Department from strictly adhering to seniority in layoffs. As a result, the union appealed to protect its seniority plan and white union members. The Burger Court reversed the lower court by ruling that because no intentional discrimination had been proved, “Title VII protects bona fida seniority systems, and it is inappropriate to deny an innocent employee the benefits of his seniority in order to pr! ovide a remedy in a pattern of practiced [discrimination] suit such as this” (Janosilk 1205). So from then on the court upheld that even if an individual shows that the discriminatory practice has an impact on him/her, the court noted, “he/she is not automatically entitled to have a non minority employee laid off to make room for him” (Janosilk 1205). One of the most historic Affirmative Action decisions in employment in the 1970's was United Steelworkers of America v. Weber. In this case tan on-the-job Affirmative action agreement was collectively bargained by the Kaiser Aluminum and Chemical Corporation and the United Steel workers of America at a plant in Gramercy, Louisiana. There were no skilled black craftsmen at the plant, and a voluntary Affirmative Action plan was developed to avoid the possibility of litigation by black employees into the company. Even though no past discrimination by the Kaiser Company had ever been proven. Under the agreement, half the slots for in-plant craft training programs were reserved for black employees until the proportion of Blacks in the local labor force. Weber, a white denied admission to the training program, claimed that because this rule it set up a specific quota, it constituted racial discrimination in violation of Title VII. Title VII states that” an employer cannot be ! “required” to give preferencetial treatment to any racial group because of a racial imbalance in the workforce. This case shows that even it is impossible to discriminate against white males just because a company must meet a quota. History has shown that discrimination has and always will be a problem as long as society remains ignorant of its existence. Still many people believe that discrimination in the workplace is not as bad as the politicians and Service Commissions, such as “Fair Employment Practice Community” and “Office of Federal Contract Compliance in the Department of Labor,” make it out to be. In Stelle v. Louisville & Nashville Railroad, a union and an employer had agreed on a contract under which Blacks’ opportunities for employment as firemen had been restricted. Griggs v. Duke Power Co. Black employees of the Duke Power Company of North Carolina stated that employees needed to meet certain requirements: “Employees need to have a high school diploma or and an acceptable grade on an intelligence test for both new employees and job transfers” (Janosik 1205). In many cases these tests were used to weed out any Black employment opportunity, for these tests were biased and not reasonably related to the abilities or skills necessary for successful performance on the job. In McDonnell Douglas Corp. V. Green, The McDonnell Douglas Corp. withheld a position from Mr. Green while attempting to scout for someone with equal qualifications as Green (Janosik 1205). In Hazelwood School District v. United States, the court decided that “discrimination may be based on statistical evidence demonstrating an obvious imbalance in the racial composition of the faculty of a school when compared to the racial make up of the general community population” (Janosik 1204). Meaning that if the community in which the school lies in, is made up of a mixture of people with different ethnic backgrounds, that there should not only be white teachers teaching , but Black and Hispanic teachers teaching as well. There are to reasons for the ruling on Hazelwood School District v. United States. One is that to prevent students from learning certain skills only a teacher of a certain ethnic background can provide is discrimination too. Students should be able to experience different kinds of cultures and languages. The second reason is that in a community mostly are made up of women and minorities, out of the many possible teachers in that community their ! should be at least a dozen teachers at a school in that district. That way the teacher understands the problems the students are facing in their communities. By having a teacher that come from the same communities as their students they will be aware of the problems facing their community and that of their students, that way they can better help theses kids, than someone that lives outside of the children The community and has no idea of the problems they are facing. In 1984 their were seventy-one women professors out of 1,112 (6.4 per cent). They were not however, evenly distributed across subjects and departments, but were concentrated in conventionally ‘female’ areas. Three out of five professors of library science are women, and five out of seven professors or nursing. Women are also notable represented in education ( seven out of forty-nine professors) and social work (six out of twenty- one professors). In contrast there is only one women professor out of thir! ty-eight in business administration and one out of 147 in engineering(Webb 538). “An examination of numbers of posts lost or gained between 1980 and 1984 also reveals that areas where women are most concentrated have been cut back most significantly: numbers of post in nursing, for example, have declined across all grades while numbers of posts in engineering and business administration have stayed constant or increased. A case study demonstrated that equal opportunity is far from a matter of “following a simple programme”(Webb 545). Sonia Liff was quoted as say “Women and minorities fail not because they are less Abel to carry out the tasks; they are excluded because of the way that they necessary qualification are defined. The competition is structured against women and minorities because the job is perceived as requiring skills, experience and working patterns far mor likely to be found amongst white men, or indeed seen as inherently male. What should be asked of employers is not that they accept less qualified, less able women or minorities in preference to white men but that they rethink what the job requires that do not rule out competent women or minarets. In Franks v. Bowman Transportation Co., Bowman Transportation Co. discriminated against black applicants for jobs as truck drivers within the company to more desirable position. The lower courts found in favor of the blacks in this predicament, ordering that they be given preference in the future job opening. The Burger court took the previous ruling against Bowman Transportation Co. One step further and ruled that “retroactive seniority could be awarded to racial minorities who had been discriminated against in violation of Title VII” (Janosik 1204). A major objective of Title VII, noted by the court majority, is to provide appropriate compensation for those injured because of discrimation in the workplace. Even though the court ruled that awarding a minority who has been discriminated against is acceptable, it might not be so in some cases, so compenstating minorities for past discriminatory action upon them by some other company would not apply, but if a company does discrimate against someone, the person that they discriminate against is applicable for compensation. “After the mid-1970's an increasing number of Burger Courts cases involved the widely debated issue of Affirmative Action in employment” (Janosik 1210). Society must realize that Affirmative Action plans is rather a safety net to prevent discriminatory acts against non whites males than just a method of employing minorities and women into the workforce “ there is substantial evidence of the countinuing veritical and horizontal occupational segregation between men, women and minorities”( Webb 533). Yet many people against Affirmative Action see Affirmative Action plans and Executive orders as an advantage that is given to minorities and woment by the Federal Government and that is why they cannot see Affirmative Action plans and executive orders as safety nets for women and minorities. Those opposed to the idea of affirmative action feel that affirmative action is actually reversed discrimination at work; but a recent study by Alfred Blumorosen, a professor at Rutgers University law school, found that only a few dozen reported cases of reverse discrimination in federal courts over the past four years, most of which were rejected by the courts. (America Online 1). These same people also feel that Affirmative Action leads to lower standards of education needed to work, this is totally untrue. Affirmative action plans are not placing people in job that they are not qualified for. The people that are given job by Affirmative Action plans have graduated from four year universities or have the Assossiates degree. No one can stay employed in a job if they do not have skills to preform their task. To say Affirmative action acts on the basis of prejudice is not true. Affirmative Action does not display bias or has irrational hatred of a particular group, race, or religion. Affirmative action plans is just a way of helping poeple to get jobs. “Republican lawmakers and presidential hopefulls are vying with eac other to stake out the strongest position for curtailing or abolishing racial and gender preferences in federal programs” (Gottlieb551). Robert Dole’s closest rival, senator Phil Gramm of Texas, pledged to wipe out minority preference in the ferderal government with a stroke of a pen if elected. “This is a policy that needs to be overturned. Gramm said on CBS’ ‘Face the Nation’ April 16. Yet none of these politican have a solution more effective of preventing discrimination in jobs and at the same time helps minorites find jobs. President Clinton, is facing a no-win situation betweeen traditional civil rights constitutenciesand the many “angry white males” in this country. These men wish to change federal affimative action policies but promise to continue efforts to eliminate discrimination. Yet no plan or proposal that Republican lawmakers, or “angry white males” have created has help decrease the number of discrimantory act by a company or has helped minorities find jobs than Affirmative Action plans existing today. These same Republican lawmakers are pushing ahead with efforts to unravel affirmative action, encouraged and empowered by a dramatic Supreme court ruling that cas doubt on federal programs seeking to advance women and minorities. The high court June 12 handed down a 5-4 opinion in a closely watched case, Adarand Construction v. Pena, that challenged a federal Affirmative Action Program. The majority opinion written by Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, did not actually strike down any Affirmative Action programs, but it criticized the moral justification for Affirmative Aciton, saying that race conscious programs can amount to unconstitutional reverse discrimination and even harm those they seek to advance. Yet they had not proven any way in which Affirmative Action can “harm those they seek to advance”. Republican had been preparing a legislative assault on federal Affirmative Action, either by eliminating programs or with a sweeping measure to outlaw virtually all federal preferecnes on the basis of race or gender. Their targets include scores of congressional and executive branch initiatives that offer special consideration or set-aside for women, minorities and others in federal contracting and hiring. This proves that Republicans wish to eliminate Affirmative Action plan and replace it with nothing. With nothing to help women or minorities their is minimal chances of them competing in the job market. In defending the program, the Clinton administration stressed that white-owned companies can quaify for bonuses given by Affrimative Action Plans if they prove that they are “Socially or enconomically disadvantaged.” Some critics of Affirmative Action want to adopt social or economic hardship as a criterion for all Affirmative Action plans. “ Civi rights groups say they are not opposed to using socioeconomic disadvantages, but want to keep policies specifically aimed at women and minorities too”(America Online 3). Speculation about the future of Affirmative Action must go beyond “prognosis” of the court’s configuration and estimations of its respect for precedents said John Naibandian of University of Kansas (Public Administration Reveiw 43). He was also quoted as saying , “Over an 18-year period, adminstrators hve become sensitized to court decisionexpressing the value of social equity. It is unreasonable to anticpate sudden administrative reversal of these impacts now regardlass of Court action (Public Administration Review 43). Some observers have suggested that the solution to racial inequality in the United States lies largely in a two-pronged attack on discrimination in educationm and employment. If such a solution is possible, certainly the Supreme Court will play a role. But, in a system of separation of powers, it is axiimatic that only so much can be accomplished by even the most activist Courts. That is why all human beings must strive to understand the total implication of what they do. They must help each other see that there is a problem in employing women and minorities.
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