The Limits of Fair Employment:
The Consent Decrees and the
Economic Crisis of the 1970s
The Fairfield settlement became the model for industrywide consent decrees signed on April 15, 1974. 1 Because the decrees were another tripartite agreement among the government, the union, and the industry, they addressed how Title VII would be enforced as well as how seniority would operate in the steel industry. The actors with a stake in the matter exceeded the 350,000 workers, the union, and the steel companies covered by the order. The eeoc, ofcc, ldf, and eventually the National Organization of Women (NOW) had institutional roles to preserve as well as solutions to defend. Thus, the settlement challenged and altered the whole regulatory regime—litigation, standing, and multiple venues—as well as the Bethlehem-affected class solution.
But in 1977 the courts took a 180-degree turn. Addressing the issue for the first time, the Supreme Court ruled in a case involving a trucking company that Title VII did not require seniority changes. The steel settlement had been negotiated under the assumption that the law was clear, but it was not. 2
The consent decrees continued in the absence of a legal mandate because of the union role in fashioning the decision. Technically, the decrees were now part of the union contract, but initially they had been incorporated because they could be defended as fair as well as required by law. Representing both blacks and whites, the union had been forced to balance interests, unlike the government, industry, and civil rights lawyers, who had other imperatives or
Questia, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning. www.questia.com
Publication information: Book title: Running Steel, Running America:Race, Economic Policy and the Decline of Liberalism. Contributors: Judith Stein - Author. Publisher: University of North Carolina Press. Place of publication: Chapel Hill, NC. Publication year: 1998. Page number: 169.
This material is protected by copyright and, with the exception of fair use, may not be further copied, distributed or transmitted in any form or by any means.