Black Workers in White Unions: Job Discrimination in the United States

By William B. Gould | Go to book overview

Preface

This book deals with the law and reality of employment discrimination, and places particular emphasis upon race and labor unions. I have drawn upon numerous interviews with union and employer representatives as well as some government officials in order to assess the impact of decrees, governmental efforts to eliminate discrimination, and the extent to which private behavior meets the standards of law as enunciated by the courts and the agencies. Moreover, my experience both as consultant to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and as plaintiffs' counsel in litigation in the federal courts (coupled with my previous representation of both unions and employers) provided me with many insights derived from firsthand observation.

In a sense, this book is more than a professional assessment, for I have seen racial discrimination ever since I was a small child. I know what it means to be black in America, and I am quite familiar with the thinking of many whites in this country as it relates to the race issue.

I became a lawyer because of the Supreme Court's desegregation decisions, and by the time I entered law school I had decided to specialize in labor law -- a choice partially motivated by my belief that the law might be used to eliminate racial inequities in employment. My thinking about the issues under discussion in this book has evolved over a considerable period of time.

The landscape has been altered during that period. As farm mechanization has hastened the exodus from agriculture, industrial employers, disproportionally numerous in the North of the United States, have attracted southern black workers who are products of another society and environment. This kind of migration has accentuated the bitterness between the races throughout the world, although discord has been most pronounced in the United States -- a country which bears the legacy of slavery, the black codes, Jim Crow, and "separate but equal." The migration has been essential to the advance of the Western economies. But the price of economic growth is racial conflict.

As a result, the ever-present tension between equality of opportunity and the nation's actual practices has become more severe. White insecurity about race which is predicated in substantial part upon sex, a retracting economy which makes the majority cling to their cherished economic advantages, and black violence and crime in the cities -- all these factors have been significant as America has become

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