Tuesday, September 3, 2013

"Affirmative action" as a term appears in the 1930s giving remedies to white union workers discriminated against by employers due to union activity or membership

Court ordered remedies...


The commentary below is no brief in support of AA quotas but an examination of the standard propaganda narrative in some quarters- namely that remedies for discriminatory treatment are something given or created "specially for blacks," and/or dreamed up by reputed "liberals" to "oppress white people." But in fact, said "oppressed white people" were long enjoying court remedies for discriminatory treatment in employment. Nothing "special" was "given" to black people. Even conservative OPPONENT of AA quotas Thomas Sowell notes that "affirmative action" is a term from the 1930s acting in favor of white union members who were discriminated against by employers because they were union members. White unionists thus treated received enforcement remedies by the courts, against such treatments, not mere toothless "cease and desist" orders. QUOTE Per Sowell:


"The general principle behind "affirmative action" is that a court order to "cease and desist" from some discriminatory practice may not be sufficient to undo the harm already done, or even to prevent additional harm as the result of a pattern of events set in motion by the prior illegal activity. This general principle goes back much further than the civil-rights legislation of the 1960's, and extends well beyond questions involving ethnic minorities or women. In 1935, the Wagner Act prescribed "affirmative action" as well as "cease and desist" remedies against employers whose anti-union activities had violated the law. Thus, in the landmark Jones and Laughlin Steel case which established the constitutionality of the Act, the National Labor Relations Board ordered the company not only to stop discriminating against those of its employees who were union members, but also to post notices to that effect in conspicuous places and to reinstate unlawfully discharged workers, with back pay. Had the company merely been ordered to "cease and desist" from economic (and physical) retaliation against union members,the future effect of its past intimidation would have continued to inhibit the free-choice elections guaranteed by the National Labor Relations Act.

Racial discrimination is another obvious area where merely to "cease and desist" is not enough. If a firm has engaged in racial discrimination for years, and has an all-white work force as a result, then simply to stop explicit discrimination will mean little as long as the firm continues to hire by word-of-mouth referrals to its current employees' friends and relatives. (Many firms hire in just this way, regardless of their racial policies.) Clearly, the area of racial discrimination is one in which positive or affirmative steps of some kind seem reasonable-which is not to say that the particular policies actually followed make sense."

--Sowell, Thomas (1975) Affirmative Action Reconsidered. The Public Interest 3, pg 48-65

Sowell opposes race quotas but candidly holds that affirmative outreach steps in recruitment, promotion etc are reasonable. A company that has long denied its qualified black employees promotion can take such steps as steadily moving up said employees over time without imposing mandatory race quotas  where the unqualified move up simply because of their race. He also candidly notes that court remedies to protect or compensate those directly  damaged are something long enjoyed by white workers. There nothing new, but have been around since the 1930s for whites.

But the standard propaganda narrative skips over this history and in high dudgeon denounces reputed "special treatment" allegedly "given" to blacks. Why aren't the remedies above a bad thing when benefiting white unionists, but become a "problem" only when a black man shows up wanting a piece of the action?


While white union workers were enjoying affirmative action protections, they bitterly opposed blacks getting all but the most menial jobs- even shutting down war production with strikes during WW2 to block and harass black people.

For example, in 1944 8000 white transit workers in Philadelphia when on strike to protest the hiring of 8 blacks as motormen and conductors. Apparently the blacks were not supposed to be employed in those "reserved" positions. Alarmed that war production was suffering the federal government brought in troops to run streetcars, trolleys and buses. Similar hate strikes occurred in Detroit, Portland and elsewhere. Source: Timothy N. Thurber - 2013. Republicans and Race: The Gop's Frayed Relationship With African Americans, 1945-1974.
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Strikes designed to block and intimidate black workers- QUOTE:

"Many [strikes] were based on racism as whites objected to African Americans getting new jobs in defense plants. Perhaps the most shameful occurred in Baltimore, where black employees rose from 2 percent to 29 percent at a Western Electric plant in the first two years of the war.. 'twenty-two white women walked off their after one black woman was transferred into their formally all white department.' Their objection focused on integrated toilet facilities which previously had been segregated by race. When the War Labor Board ruled in favor of integration, 'about 70 percent of the company's workers' struck- a percentage that included almost all white workers both men and women.. Army troops took over the company for the first three months of 1944 -until the company gave into the white workers and re-segregated restrooms."
-- Doris Weatherford 2009, American women during World War 2: An Encyclopedia. pg 436




Sowell's words still ring true today as regards African-Americans as they did 30 years ago- that black progress is not due to any "affirmative action" given by white people. QUOTE:

"During the 1960"s-before "affirmative action"-black incomes in the United States rose at a higher rate than white incomes. So too did the proportion of blacks in college and in skilled and professional occupations-and along with this came a faster decline in the proportion of black families below the poverty line or living in substandard housing. When people ask why blacks cannot pull themselves up the way other oppressed minorities did in the past, many white liberals and black "spokesmen" fall right into the trap and rush in to offer sociological "explanations." But there is nothing to explain. The fact is that blacks have pulled themselves up-from further down, against stronger opposition-and show every indication of continuing to advance. While this advance is the product of generations of struggle, it accelerated at an unprecedented pace in the 1960"s, once the worst forms of discrimination had been outlawed and stigmatized. Black income as a percentage of white income reached its peak in 1970-the year before numerical "goals and timetables."

References:
Sowell, Thomas (1975) Affirmative Action Reconsidered. The Public Interest 3, pg 48-65


the white hookup...

Likewise Sowell notes in his 1981 book "Knowledge and Decisions" that mere "cease and desist" approaches mean little when whites fill most job openings without advertising- passing "the white word" mostly to other whites who subsequently "get the hookup." No negroes need apply because they do not even know the jobs exist. The white network has everything sown up, for white benefit.Of course even with formal advertising, whites asily find ways to freeze out duskier applicants. They do not even have to show their face-employers have been shown to dismiss ir downgrade applications that have "black sounding" names. Here's Sowell:

"The phrase "affirmative action" is ambiguous. It refers both to a general approach and to highly specific policies. The general approach is that to "cease and desist" from some harmful activity may be insufficient to undo the harm already done, or even to prevent additional harm in the future from a pattern of events set in motion in the past. This idea antedates the civil rights issues of the 1960s. The 1935 Wagner Act prescribed that "affirmative action"6' be taken by employers found guilty of intimidating unionized employees-for example, posting notices of changed policies and/or reinstating discharged workers with back pay.62 

Racial discrimination is another area where simply to cease and desist would not prevent future harm from past actions. The widespread practice of hiring new employees by word-of-mouth referrals from existing employees means that a racially discriminatory employer with an all-white labor force is likely to continue having an all-white labor force long after he ceases discriminating, because he will be hiring the relatives and friends of incumbent employees.

Opponents of racial discrimination therefore urged that "affirmative action" be taken to break up or supersede hiring patterns and practices which left racial or ethnic minorities largely outside the usual hiring channels. This might include advertising in newspapers or in broadcast media more likely to reach minority workers, or a variety of other ways of creating equalized access to apply for employment, college admissions, etc."
--Sowell, 1981. Knowledge and Decisions



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