Understanding Affirmative Action: Politics, Discrimination, and the Search for Justice

By J. Edward Kellough | Go to book overview

six
Cases from 1995 to 2003
Challenges, Uncertainty, and the
Survival of Affirmative Action

In the 1995 case of Adarand Constructors v. Federico Pena, Secretary of Transportation et al., the Supreme Court abandoned the distinction that had been made previously between federal government affirmative action and state or local government affirmative action. The Court ruled in Adarand that federal affirmative action preferences would be subject to strict scrutiny just like state and local programs following Wygant and Croson. The circumstances that gave rise to the Adarand case began in 1989 when Mountain Gravel and Construction Company was awarded the prime contract for a federal highway construction project in Colorado. Federal law provided that Mountain Gravel would receive additional compensation if the company hired subcontractors certified as small businesses controlled by socially and economically disadvantaged individuals. The law also required a presumption that racial or ethnic minorities, including African Americans or Hispanics, were socially and economically disadvantaged. Mountain Gravel therefore had a financial incentive to award subcontracts to minority-owned businesses and thus awarded a subcontract for construction of the guardrail portion of the overall project to Gonzales Construction Company, despite the fact that another company, Adarand Constructors, a Colorado-based company that specialized in guardrail work, actually submitted the low bid for that portion of the project. Adarand, however, was not certified

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