On February 4, 1966, in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri, the United States filed a civil complaint seeking injunctive relief against six labor-related organizations alleged to have engaged in a pattern or practice of racial discrimination against black persons, in violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e through 2000e-15. The United States filed its case pursuant to a provision of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-6, which authorizes the Attorney General to sue upon "reasonable cause to believe that a person or group is engaged in a pattern or practice of resistance to the full enjoyment of rights" secured by the Act, and that "the pattern or practice is of such a nature and is intended to deny the full exercise of" those rights.
Represented by counsel from the U.S. Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division, the government reached negotiated settlements with several of the defendant organizations and, upon the government's motion, they were dismissed from the lawsuit. We do not have the precise dates of the settlements. The dismissed defendants included local AFL-CIO construction unions and the Building and Construction Trades Council of St. Louis. As part of the settlement, they adopted or encouraged voluntary remedial programs. These programs included, for example, provisions requiring (1) consideration of all applicants (for membership, work referral and apprenticeship) without discrimination; (2) community relations program development; (3) use of objective, uniform standards in assessing applicant qualifications; (4) standards whereby blacks are not disadvantaged in employment opportunities because of advantages of prior union affiliation; (5) publicizing procedures and standards regarding work opportunities; and (6) keeping and making available reviewable records reflecting the progress and effect of these programs.
Two defendants elected to proceed to trial, which occurred from June 15 through 20, 1967, before District Judge James H. Meredith. These defendants, the local sheet metal and electrical workers' unions, prevailed in the district court and the government's case against them was dismissed, with prejudice, by Judge Meredith's ruling on March 7, 1968. United States v. Sheet Metal Workers Int. Ass'n., 280 F.Supp. 719 (E.D. Mo. 1968). In his post-trial memorandum, the judge viewed the relevant period as the time between July 2, 1965, when the Civil Rights Act of 1964 went into effect, and the date the complaint was filed, February 4, 1966. The district judge ruled that no evidence showed that, during this eight month period, either defendant had engaged in discriminatory practices to exclude blacks from union membership, nor from admission to apprenticeship training programs, nor from work opportunities made available through the unions' hiring hall programs. The district court found that both local unions excluded blacks prior to 1964's Civil Rights Act, but had made post-Act efforts to recruit blacks. Judge Meredith interpreted the Act as "not intending to penalize unions or others for their sins prior to the effective date of the Act." Viewing the Act as "prospective only," he viewed it as not intended to destroy seniority rights in unions or in businesses. The United States appealed the adverse ruling to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit.
The Eighth Circuit reversed and remanded the case. United States v. Sheet Metal Workers Int. Ass'n., 416 F.2d 123 (8th Cir. 1969) (Circuit Judge Gerald W. Heaney). The appellate court reviewed the evidence of the local unions' conduct of their membership policies, employment referral systems, apprentice training programs, journeymen's examination, and organizing policies. It rejected the district court's apparent view that the government had to prove, without resort to pre-Act conduct, discriminatory conduct by the unions since the date of the Act. Rather, Judge Heaney's analysis put the unions' conduct in the context of their pre-1964 exclusion of blacks from membership, apprenticeship training, and work referral and found that the defendants' post-Act practices continued these exclusionary policies. The judge cited the unions' limited efforts, post-Act, to organize black employees of black contractors, in comparison with pre- and post-Act efforts to organize white employees of white contractors. He noted that the locals discouraged members from working on jobs employing black contractors or tradesmen, in part by adhering to a trades council statement that AFL-CIO affiliated unions would not work on a project not manned entirely by AFL-CIO members. The court noted that during construction of the St. Louis Arch an incident had required issuance of an injunction to end a labor boycott. Union workers refused to work on the project, which also employed black craftsmen belonging to an independent union. With black workers having been excluded from the defendants' AFL-CIO unions, blacks seeking union membership had had to join a union affiliated with the CIU (Congress of Industrial Unions), independent of the AFL-CIO locals. The injunction was issued, as referenced in United States v. Building and Construction Trades Council of St. Louis, 271 F. Supp. 447 (E.D. Mo. 1966). Judge Heaney observed that these union practices excluding blacks from membership constituted unlawful employment practices.
Judge Heaney also found that the unions' employment referral system operated in a discriminatory manner. Indeed, the discrimination based on race or color was "total," according to the court, rejecting the district court's finding otherwise. The hiring hall systems in place (one exclusive and one non-exclusive, meaning that non-members, too, could register at the hall for jobs) both established tiers of priority groups for work referral, with assignment to a tier largely based on years of prior employment. Because of the unions' previous exclusionary policies, blacks were and remained unable to gain experience required for higher tier classifications and were denied opportunities for work. Because the employment referral systems carried forward the effects of former discriminatory practices, they resulted in present and future discrimination in violation of the Act, according to the court. Evidence of particular instances of post-Act discrimination against minorities was unneeded in these circumstances. The judge directed that the parties work out modifications to the experience components of the hiring hall systems set out in the unions' collective bargaining agreements, with the modifications to be approved by the trial court, to permit qualified blacks to register for employment at the hiring halls and to be placed in the highest group for which they qualify.
As for the local unions' admission policies, the electrician's union policy was upheld (it relied on members' voting to approve new membership and no evidence showed members were likely to vote against membership for a qualified black journeymen), while the sheet metal workers' policy was held violative of the Act. That policy conditioned membership on passing a journeyman's examination, with the pass/fail decision being solely in the absolute discretion of an individual whose judgment could not, in any practical way, be reviewed. In light of the union's record of discriminating against blacks as to membership and related benefits, the court ruled it essential that journeymen's examinations be objective, designed to test work ability, and given and graded in such a manner as to permit review. Relatedly, the court ruled that this union's "special" (reduced) initiation fees for persons joining as a result of organizing campaigns discriminated, since the organizing occurred at white contractors employing white employees. Judge Heaney directed the district court to require this union, for a reasonable time, to fix its initiation fees for employed blacks at a sum equal to the average fees charged to the union's post-Act initiates.
The appellate court also agreed with the government that the unions had made an inadequate effort to publicize the post-Act change in their policies regarding admitting blacks in the apprenticeship training program and no effort to inform as to their post-Act changes in membership and employment referral systems. The entrenched nepotism in these trades and the pre-1966 exclusion of blacks from union membership meant, to Judge Heaney, that the unions' prior efforts to publicize were not "all that can be reasonably expected." He found that limited visits to schools, mailings and press releases were not regularly-conducted nor sufficiently informative of the nondiscriminatory nature of the apprenticeship training programs. The Act authorized courts to require unions to publicize the fact that membership and related benefits have been opened to all persons. The Eighth Circuit said the district court should exercise that authority on remand.
We have no further information on this case.Mike Fagan - 04/23/2008