WGBH Journal; Affirmative Action In
Good afternoon and welcome to GBH Journal.
I'm Bill cavernous.
Today's program will consist of a report on the affirmative action policies within Boston's construction unions. Let's hear about the rebuilding of homes in Scituate Massachusetts damaged by last February storm. And a close will have commentary on the news from the law.
Boston Mayor Kevin White last week announced a new executive order which effective immediately will require that at least 10 percent of all city funded construction be undertaken by minority owned firms. The announcement comes at a time when the city prepares for a multimillion dollar redevelopment program financed by the federal government. Prior to Mayor White's announcement a number of inner city organizations had claimed that little was being done to ensure more employment for minorities in Boston with the city's newfound monies. Reporter Greg Fitzgerald paired this sketch on the progress of affirmative action policies within Boston's construction union.
The absence of effective governmental help which we don't have at present. Minority worker organizations and community groups have to take it upon themselves have to through their own initiative very often go out and see that plans such as the Boston plan which are devised which with the greatest amount of hoopla and public relations gimmickry and court decrees which are which are on the books are enforced. They are these groups minority work organizations community organizations must take the initiative themselves because after all if they don't it's a no one no one else's self-interest to see that these these decrees and these plans are enforced and they won't be enforced.
William Gould author and researcher at Stanford University recently googled published black workers white unions a survey of the history of labor and civil rights. Gould who is black father grew up in Boston during the age of exclusion for blacks and other minorities is skeptical of recent developments in affirmative action plans. One such plan was a voluntary hiring scheme developed after the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed labeled the Boston plan not to be confused with the present redevelopment plan of the same name. The theory was to place 2000 minority workers in the Boston construction trades over a five year period. The old Boston plan was partially successful at the end of the trial period. Fifteen hundred minorities were brought into the trades. But according to some black leaders the momentum of the plan slowly faded with few new Black and Spanish speaking workers brought in after the initial five years. And according to Gould the program was one of quantity not quality.
There is no monitoring mechanism for one thing because government is either either lacks the competence or the will or the political will for it often to see to it that they're enforced. But more importantly because these plans don't go to the basic core of discrimination they don't seek to break down arbitrary non job related requirements. And the effect of these plans is to keep blacks on the fringes of the trades as they have been traditionally to come in only when whites either don't want particular work or there just isn't enough work or whites. I have all the work that they want at a particular given time.
Since the demise of the old Boston plan Boston mayor Kevin White has developed a new Boston plan. But where the old plan was designed to benefit minorities the new plan is designed to upgrade the city as a whole has a shot in the arm for construction in the city. The federal government has funded a number of major multimillion dollar redevelopment plans. The smallest and scale of these project is a 1.7 million dollar project for Blue Hill Ave. in Roxbury. A quota system is presently in effect in Boston which requires 30 percent minority employment for city contracts in Roxbury North Dorchester mad upin and Jamaica Plain and 10 percent elsewhere in the city. That quota has the effect of keeping employed those workers brought into the trades during the old Boston plant. But according to Chuck Turner director of third world construction workers jobs clearing house slowdown in construction projects over the past few years has had a negative impact on the number of jobs for minority and other inner city residents. And with the advent of new federal redevelopment monies under the new Boston plan there have been no new affirmative action plans for those same unemployed workers construction workers two years ago.
In March in 1076 raise with Mayor of Boston personally I mean in that he had a meeting with a number of of workers and organizational people around the percentages that are being applied trade by trade and he said he would get back to to the community never has on that issue. More recently people white people as well as blacks Hispanics who raise with him a question of a share from Boston workers a raise with city people question a share from Boston workers. And essentially have gotten some interesting conversation but no movement to make that a policy make that a reality. So that right now there's an even though they're talking about a new building going on they're not talking about affecting the. About new remedies to affect the problems of workers of color of Boston or white workers of Boston getting a fair share of the jobs.
If you're referring to be new bit conditions that think that's. There's a there's a great deal of truth in that I don't see where it deals with at this particular time any numerical expansion of the guns.
City officials admit there are no new hiring schemes that will guarantee more jobs for minorities in Boston construction. But James younger who directs the Office of Equal Opportunity contract compliance in the mayor's office feels the quotas for minority workers worked out in previous years are acceptable if they are enforced.
I think it's acceptable it's acceptable in terms of some very tight monitoring of current struction projects being done on an ongoing basis and probably more than has been done in the past by the city. We we've been allowed to do this by having a increase in the capacity of the compliance program. I've got a staff of 5 compliance monitors that monitor contracts on a regular basis. We're not 100 princes percent successful in all cases but I think contractors are aware of our existence. They know that we mean business and we will be we will give contractors every opportunity to comply and we will work with them and put them in touch with agencies such as the third world jobs clearinghouse to get minority workers. Any event that there are apparent cases of large compliance we will initiate the noncompliance and force against those contractors which may result in partial loss of funds or withholding of funds or told disbarment from doing business with the city.
To date according to youngers there have been no companies disbarred from doing business with the city. Employment quotas are not the only formulas for increasing and maintaining the numbers of minority workers in the field of construction. Last week Mayor White announced with much fanfare an executive order which will require that there be at least 10 percent minority owned construction firms involved in all city contract work. The theory behind the order according to city officials is to increase minority numbers by using companies that are apt to hire many minority workers. But in last week's press conference both minority business administrator Walt Williams And Mayor Kevin White underlined that it was only a hope at these frontal use minority workers from Boston first.
WILLIAMS But once the city begins to contract with minority firms we hope that you know minority firms will be employing local residents to help us alleviate the high unemployment in the low income neighborhoods.
And secondly you know we have in the impacted areas presently the mayor already has a policy that encourages a larger percent of work to be done in low income neighborhoods and that will not be effective. In fact the percentages that have been a set aside for the minority neighborhoods will remain the same. And that is 30 percent.
Can I get that for just a second. My beef is that I believe that minority employment should employ within the city. Minority people. That's very important. But I have five minority businesses as well as other businesses employing from people outside of Boston trying to fill quotas they couldn't get a game from Medford Melrose has found ways Providence. No I wanted to reach in. I'm hoping that they will employ it from the impacted area they have the same responsibility to apply minorities as I do at the other end of the Affirmative Action spectrum is labor itself.
By and large unions have been opposed to quotas imposed within city limits. The slowdown in the economy in the building trades has made that opposition even stronger. Bob Spenny a union official of the Sheet Metal Workers told reporter Amy sense that the greatest opposition to quotas comes when there is white displacement.
Is there with the family maybe you maybe on unemployment compensation are in many cases as the case with many of our members they run out of unemployment they're on welfare. And they have one skill they have to depend on the construction industry they have to depend on the national economy they have to depend on the prime lending rate. And when someone further compounds this whether or the law that sets up a quota system for a minority community. It's like getting Kamal into the fire. It just it just puts the light at the end of the tunnel corridor and grow their way.
Third world Chuck Turner does not like to see the blame of white displacement placed on affirmative action efforts. He sees labor unions in general and Labor's long standing exclusivity as the root of displacement problems.
Some of the reactions from union workers about what about our rights are serious questions asked to be looked at seriously but the reality is that they're being brought on by a leadership that has has assumed that in the economy that's in severe trouble in a nation where you have all sorts of racial tensions and economic tensions that they can sit on top of a very lucrative job area and run as if it's nobody's business except their own. They bring problems on themselves and on the white workers that they represent because they don't encourage any open process of sharing of information of of determining of a cry till a criteria of eligibility that is they were they wanted as a family. I mean they they run a very important sector of the economy as if it's their own turf to do with as they will. And that because they take those kind of add to it it means that people have to use battering rams and crowbars too. To make very small gains and what happens is that when you're using battering rams and crowbars to make small gains is making a mess you make a mess of things.
The history of affirmative action in the construction trades as in most other professions has been a history of adversarial relationships. Minorities have fought labor unions to open up their ranks. Union leaders have fought off quotas afraid of displacement of white workers minorities have had to fight government both federal and local for enforcement of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and now minorities may have to fight the courts in light of the recent Supreme Court case regarding reverse discrimination. The so-called Baki case while many legal scholars are still digesting the possible effects of Bucky the city of Boston is leaving itself open to a Baki style challenge. The Supreme Court although leaving room for race as a consideration has forbidden quotas which are present both in city contracts and in the recently announced executive order on minority business. Mayor White at last week's news conference suggested there was the possibility of a challenge to city quotas but the city would face that challenge for GBH Journal. I'm Greg Fitzgerald.
In the middle of July it's difficult for many of us to remember the seriousness of last February's blizzard which damaged homes and coastline property in Massachusetts. One of the towns which was hardest hit was situated located on the south shore where hundreds of homes were devastated by the storm. Today those people left homeless by the storm are returning to Scituate seeking low interest loans in order to help them to rebuild. The desire to rebuild one's home on one's property is understandable but there are those people conservationists and environmentalists who see the possibility of future blizzards as too threatening to allow for rebuilding on coastal land. Then Dukat visited Scituate recently and put together this report examining the issue of rebuilding in this storm damaged community.
My house got washed away by the ocean. We had left the night before and we came back the next morning and the house was.
Right over there was an empty house with reaction.
Like many other residents of Scituate Massachusetts. Kevin Duggan doesn't want to take the time to discuss property damages that resulted from this pass for every storm. He's too busy rebuilding. Duggan was fortunately fairly well covered by a federal flood insurance policy and even though he knows there's no guarantee that his house won't get washed away again. He's determined to stay.
I don't think I'd like to live anywhere else. I've been here 30 years 20 years 25 years and I really want to live here and I'm willing to sort of overextended myself financially and hopefully business will stay strong and I'll be able to keep my payments Otherwise I've got a kitchen with standing which was in the back.
First on the second floor we're down on the ground climbing was showing and the walls were down the roof was in the back of the house and there was furniture all over the place.
Marjorie Gorman a summer resident was one of the first situate homeowners to file for permission to reconstruct her severely damaged house. She didn't have flood insurance but has been able to bar sufficient sums in the Small Business Administration. A federal agency which despite its name has always been involved in home loans. For Gorman the decision to rebuild came from more than just an attachment to the area. There were financial considerations too.
It's a risk but if I did not then I would have made a substantial financially that's just a bad position to be in. 15 years a piece of women.
But why should the taxpayers have to pay for. A reconstruction or building to begin with that. Well it's like let's say there's Gore $66000 3 percent loan. Which is I don't know what the answers interest rate is. At this at this moment but let's say you have your order of maybe 12 to 15 percent lower than your character commercially. So we are subsidizing her to build a house.
Or a coastal geologist studying situates beaches is distressed at the extent to which situ residents are rebuilding. He feels that there is no telling when the next storm might recur. Dave Now is the town's conservation commissioner agrees with Branagh moire But still his commission has given the go ahead for most of the damaged destroyed houses to be rebuilt. It's hard to say no to people whose hearts are set and living at the water's edge particularly when there's federal money around with which people can rebuild. At present the Small Business Administration has okayed over one hundred eleven million dollars worth of low interest loans to homeowners in Massachusetts coastal towns to repair damage resulting from February storm. This is about twice as much as being allotted to cover the damage due to mudslides that occurred about the same time in Burbank California. Scituate has also requested and has had approved another six million dollars to rebuild damaged sea walls that line much of the town's beachfront. But according to Brandy noir the sea walls can only protect a limited area consisting almost entirely of private homes.
And what's more they can never really control the shoreline or beaches move but only one man comes in. Does the U.S. try to stop that sooner or later about what you do whether you feel the sea wall drawings are jodis that beach Well so are we protecting for the present generation and not worrying about the future. Whereas this day will come back maybe every five years fifty years every hundred years. And do we have to keep part of it paying for this building of the sea wall or do we gradually now say OK enough is enough. We're gradually going to buy up these properties to give to people who live there. You know some return for investment obviously you can't return to. The camaraderie the emotionalism the attachment to the place that's going to be got to be sure but the. Equity at least will be repaid. And then gradually buy the thing out so that in about a hundred years time or number of generations when all these houses will be demolished by storms. That will be an open ear. But then of course the money is going to have to come. But if they're going to spend six million dollars for a thing that's good that they know it's going to be the story at least it's perhaps too late already that a lot of people have reconstructed and or at least have that have repaired. And I know many are planning to rebuild in fact you at you talk to people down here and ask are you rebuilding. Yes relative if you say you know I have.
Some of the things that the Conservation Commission has been out of. Asking people to do it or requiring them to do it by setting or visions such as. Building rebuilding on pilings.
This is a very important factor because when you have a concrete wall quite often the water gets put in the hours away and the lapses and the building does. And in the case of pilings. The water just flowed. Pretty much through. You describe a piling some.
Sort of basically like a telephone pole. And there are 20 to 30 feet long and theyre driven down into the ground a good distance to 15 to 20 feet and then of course the tops are cut off at the right elevation and the building is put on other things now that were of course many of these houses were 40 50 60 years old. And these older buildings were not in most cases tied down so they could float around or be carried off very easily. Now once the house is on these pilings that has to be tied down by whole that whole sort of lag type features. We think that not only will the water flow through a bit of a trick get up to the house the house will stay there.
Conservation Commissioner no US estimates that over the next couple of years about 80 to 90 percent of the houses that were damaged or destroyed in situ and we were placed following these new codes. And sections 16 30 to the federal flood insurance program which would give claimants the option to sell their damaged property to the federal government has also never been funded. Therefore for situ residents there's still no other worthwhile alternative but to replace their homes and just hope that there won't be another storm like this past one for a long time. For National Public Radio. This is Vivian Duca in Scituate Massachusetts.
Now with his commentary on the news here is the reliance. On Charles guard dogs had performed the protocol functions of vice president for a while.
He observed that diplomacy is hell on the feet. Diplomats have been doing road work to get into position for the global diplomacy scheduled this week in London of the urgent request of the British prime minister. The American Israeli and Egyptian foreign minister has a vacated the 27 rooms they'd taken in the new Churchill hotel and move that dispatched cases and staff 40 miles out of town to Leeds Castle in Kent. It isn't that the diplomats will be safer in the thick walled castle but that London while Prime Minister Callaghan was worried about terrorism a concentration of diplomacy in a single hotel would make too tempting a target for a Palestinian bomb. When President Carter set out for the economic summit meeting at Bonn his European and Japanese confreres fed he was going empty handed to the meeting. He'd found no answers to the critical issues of inflation energy and oil imports. But the president opened his visit with a diversion not to bomb but Berlin. There are 110 miles in the communist East Germany. He held such a town meeting as we saw in Clinton and in a message to Berlin is that echoed Jack Kennedy's. Mr. Carter promised any attack on your soil will be the same as an attack on the soil of my own country. This dramatic diversion captured the headlines if his economic cupboard was bare his spirit was full. His arrival pronounced in ringing words the rhetoric may not have affected the other national leaders so much as their own necessity for all are concerned at the rising domestic pressures for protectionism that would further restrict their export markets and inflation and unemployment dangers to every political leader. So that meetings opened in morale building assurances of support for American leadership in a common struggle against economic confusion. World leaders back Carter for their mutual good says a New York Times had this morning an infectious optimism seems to us seems to have spread from Berlin to Bonn. I think much better of him and before he came a European diplomat is quoted the president appears to have moderate mollified his most severe European critic in the preliminary talks he held with the West Germany's Chancellor Schmidt. A confrontation with Schmidt and with the Japanese Prime Minister Fukuda was the forecast for Mr. Carter's position and von Schmidt like the Japanese said may know it known his disappointment at Carter's failure to win Congress support for his oil and energy programs. But after their talks Mitt is quoted as understanding the president's difficulties. The real crux isn't so much in the difference of views but in the limited freedom of action of the participating governments. He said the American government can't just cut off oil imports. It needs the Senate for that. If Mr. Carter had to cross the ocean to teach that lesson he found a sympathetic listener for Schmidt also faces political opposition for the tax cuts he seeks to expand the German economy. It was an earlier British Prime Minister Howard McMillan who explained that a political leader could affect national policy about 5 percent public indifference political partisanship administrative inertia special interest confined into that limited change even that amount of progress against economic confusion. Depends on public confidence in some minimum of understanding by their leaders on their aims. So a summit conference becomes a confidence building exercise. The difference is it could cancel out national policies need to be removed or reduced or covered up and pronouncements of cooperation. So as far as possible the disagreements that could cause confrontations are cleared away or patched up or postponed in preliminaries to a summit conference where the leaders ratify the agreed set of good intentions reports from Bonn indicate that the tomorrows end of the meeting. The agreement will be announced to support American leadership to restore global economic health. President Carter reaffirmed his commitment to cut American dependence on imported oil and to strengthen the declining dollar. Smith and Fukuda have promised efforts to stimulate their economies if this sounds a little different from the results of the previous three summit conferences in the last four years. There has been rights for Lewis in the Times and understanding that none of the economic powers is strong enough to issue a recovery by itself. Whatever else the meeting accomplished she says it is renewed awareness that the leader of the United States is necessary the central pillar of the group and that any effort by an allied leader to pull Mr. Carter down in an effort to enhance himself would probably only undermine them both. She finds a growing perception that the trouble isn't just cyclical but US hoedown and world trade caused in part by more competition from developing countries without more markets to absorb their output. The need to develop more markets runs through the discussion she says. They've all begun to focus more clearly on developing countries as the place where industrial powers will have to sell enough to keep their workers employed in their factories humming. This looks like the new news from the 4th summit.
This transcript is machine-generated and has not been corrected. It is likely there will be errors.
- WGBH Journal
- Affirmative Action In
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