Targeting White Supremacy in the Workplace

By LeRoy, Michael H. | Stanford Law & Policy Review, Winter 2018 | Go to article overview

Targeting White Supremacy in the Workplace


LeRoy, Michael H., Stanford Law & Policy Review


      Introduction                                                 108 I.    American Workers and Racial Caste                            112       A. Exclusion                                                 112       B. Segregation and Desegregation                             114 II.   The Ku Klux Klan Act: Origin, Dormancy, and Rebirth          119       A. Reconstruction: Expansion of Civil Rights                 120       B. Rise of Jim Crow, Fall of the Ku Klux Klan Act            123 III.  Segregation and the Ku Klux Klan Act                         129       A. Resurgence of White Supremacy                             130       B. White Supremacy in the Workplace                          134       C. Segregation and the Ku Klux Klan Act                      137       1. The Legislative History of the Ku Klux Klan Act:       Segregating       Labor                                                        138       2. A Typology of Cases Involving Racial Conspiracies in the       Workplace                                                    141       Conclusion                                                   155 

INTRODUCTION

As hate incidents increase in the workplace, individuals and employers face legal action--but not hate groups who incite and orchestrate attacks against minorities. Extreme attacks by white supremacists recreate conditions of racial segregation at work and in specific labor markets. When Congress passed the Ku Klux Klan Act in 1871, (2) they aimed to uproot white supremacist intimidation that forced blacks to work in a racial caste. Today, a growing number of extreme incidents show the U.S. is returning to work segregation. This study suggests a new way to apply the Ku Klux Klan Act to work-related racial conspiracies.

American workers have a dark history of insecurity over their livelihood. In the aftermath of the Civil War and decades later, some claimed racial superiority over freed slaves; (3) reviled Chinese coolies for their customs and hard work; (4) demonized Japanese who were imported for their labor; (5) subjected Mexicans to peonage; (6) slandered Jews; (7) and shunned Catholics. Their hatred of otherness fueled the politics behind the Chinese Exclusion Act, (8) Japanese exclusion provisions of the Immigration Act of 1924, (9) and National Origins Formula. (10) For nearly a century, many workers warped the beneficent purposes of their labor unions, (11) turning fraternal work organizations into monopolies for whites. By institutionalizing racial segregation, they limited labor market competition to their advantage. (12)

Courts curbed racial segregation in unions in the 1940s. (13) Since then, most unions have accepted racial equality. However, organized labor's connection to American workers has withered with declines in union membership. (14) More voiceless and adrift than any time since the National Labor Relations Act was passed in 1935, some workers have returned to their nativist roots. Racial demagogues have inflamed their grievances against immigrants, blacks, and other non-whites. (15)

This study is set to a deeper magnification--not the worker who proudly wears the red Trump baseball cap, not the worker whose bumper sticker proclaims "Make America Great Again," not the worker who attacks political correctness, nor the worker who favors broad immigration bans. Instead, I explore four types of racial conspiracies that are connected to a workplace. In each scenario, I examine where the conspiracy was formed, and where it was carried out, to see how white supremacists use the workplace to re-segregate America.

Type 1 is a racial conspiracy formed and acted on in a workplace. In a steel mill, an employee who was also a Ku Klux Klan leader showed a member-induction video to co-workers in a breakroom. (16) For years, the mill was permeated with racist symbols, insults, and starkly unequal treatment of whites and blacks. (17) The employer was sued for race discrimination. …

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