Constructing Affirmative Action

Constructing Affirmative Action: The Struggle for Equal Employment Opportunity

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  • Book Info
    Constructing Affirmative Action
    Book Description:

    Between 1965, when President Lyndon B. Johnson defined affirmative action as a legitimate federal goal, and 1972, when President Richard M. Nixon named one of affirmative action's chief antagonists the head of the Department of Labor, government officials at all levels addressed racial economic inequality in earnest. Providing members of historically disadvantaged groups an equal chance at obtaining limited and competitive positions, affirmative action had the potential to alienate large numbers of white Americans, even those who had viewed school desegregation and voting rights in a positive light. Thus, affirmative action was -- and continues to be -- controversial.

    Novel in its approach and meticulously researched, David Hamilton Golland's Constructing Affirmative Action: The Struggle for Equal Employment Opportunity bridges a sizeable gap in the literature on the history of affirmative action. Golland examines federal efforts to diversify the construction trades from the 1950s through the 1970s, offering valuable insights into the origins of affirmative action--related policy. Constructing Affirmative Action analyzes how community activism pushed the federal government to address issues of racial exclusion and marginalization in the construction industry with programs in key American cities.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-2998-3
    Subjects: History, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Abbreviations
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-6)

    In April 1969, at a luncheon in Philadelphia sponsored by the Jewish Labor Committee and the Negro Trade Union Leadership Council, AFL-CIO legislative director Andrew J. Biemiller stated that the embattled “labor–liberal–civil rights coalition must be maintained and strengthened because its job isn’t done.”¹ Biemiller’s worry—that a rift was developing in the coalition over the issue of affirmative action—was well founded. The building construction trades’ notorious exclusion of most blacks from all but the meanest jobs did not jibe with the umbrella organization’s official attitude of equal opportunity. The previous autumn had seen the election of...

  6. Chapter 1 Fighting Bureaucratic Inertia, 1956–1960
    (pp. 7-34)

    Thomas Bailey was a skilled brick mason living in Beacon, New York, a sleepy little town in the Hudson Valley between Peekskill and Poughkeepsie. In June 1958, when he applied for membership in the Bricklayers, Masons, and Plasterers Local #44, he was told by the union’s business agent, Andrew Gallante, that he could become a member of the union only if he was actively working in the trade. Unfortunately for Bailey, whenever he applied for work—at job sites such as the new Mattawan State Hospital—he was repeatedly told by the construction foremen that he could not be employed...

  7. Chapter 2 Becoming the Urban Crisis, 1961–1963
    (pp. 35-64)

    The policeman’s blackjack hit Stanford’s head—not once, but twice. Another officer struck Daniels, also in the head. The two young men fell to the street, stunned. Both were arrested. Daniels, who had been taking pictures, saw his camera confiscated. As he later recounted:

    I was shooting pictures of the line, when all of a sudden these construction workers rushed up and tried to crash through. The police came from everywhere. I never saw so many of them in my life. I saw one of them pull out a blackjack and hit Stanford twice on the head. I was still...

  8. Chapter 3 Grasping at Solutions, 1964–1967
    (pp. 65-102)

    In 1962 James Ballard, a “twenty-two-year-old Negro Air Force veteran,” applied for an apprenticeship at the office of Sheet Metal Workers Local #28 in New York City. He was dutifully asked to complete an apprenticeship application form. Then he was shown a stack of papers and told “he would just have to wait his turn.” This was irregular; the sheet metal workers had never followed a first-come, first-served policy but typically ranked applicants based on less objective criteria. Ballard was also advised that in order to qualify, he would have to pass a “General Aptitude Test Battery conducted by the...

  9. Illustrations
    (pp. None)
  10. Chapter 4 Pushing the Envelope: The Philadelphia Plans, 1967–1969
    (pp. 103-142)

    In the spring of 1968, white electricians John Melleher, Joe Quinn, and John Kennedy filed a complaint with the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations, claiming they had been “denied work at the United States Mint” construction site “because of their race.” These union men felt they had been passed over by Nager Electrical Company, a subcontractor on the project, for nonunion black electricians in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The commission dismissed the case, noting that the mint project was federally financed and that such discrimination complaints were therefore out of its jurisdiction.


  11. Chapter 5 Constructing Affirmative Action, 1970–1973
    (pp. 143-170)

    In 1970 three trained steamfitters—George Rios, a Puerto Rican, and Eugene Jenkins and Eric O. Lewis, both African American—were rebuffed when they attempted to obtain “A Branch” journeyman membership in New York City Steamfitters Local #638. The union refused to refer them to work, and they were refused jobs by all members of the local Mechanical Contractors’ Association (MCA). Wylie B. Rutledge, another African American, was rejected by the local JAC when he applied for apprenticeship as a steamfitter.¹

    Local #638 maintained two grades of steamfitters: “A Branch,” whose members were referred to lucrative, specialized jobs in construction,...

  12. Conclusion: Affirmative Action and Equal Employment Opportunity
    (pp. 171-184)

    Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary definesaffirmative actionas “an active effort to improve the employment or educational opportunities of members of minority groups and women.”¹ Noteworthy in that definition is the wordopportunities. In the context of the racism that has pervaded the educational, employment, and social institutions of the United States since colonial times, equal opportunity cannot be achieved without such “active effort.” As employers, government officials, and union leaders found during the 1960s, the act of establishing “color-blind” employment policies alone did not result in a significantly integrated workforce. Such policies tended to result in token integration, with employers...

  13. Notes
    (pp. 185-226)
  14. Selected Bibliography
    (pp. 227-234)
  15. Index
    (pp. 235-248)