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Considering the subject of affirmative action the following questions frequently

are raised: Is there a clear understanding of affirmative action roles/goals?

What are the pros/cons of these programs? What are the "loop holes" in

the system? Does seniority play a role in affirmative action? Addressing these

key questions may help us all in our daily routine, as administrators and/or

potential administrator in the public/private sector. Affirmative action

programs throughout the United States have long been a controversial issue

particularly concerning employment practices (public/private) and university

student and/or staff recruitment. Most public agencies have some type of

instituted affirmative action program. According to Cheryl Perry-League,

Director of Equal Opportunity of the Port of Oakland, every business operating

on Port of Oakland owned land must have a standing affirmative action program on

record and businesses bidding to do work for the Port of Oakland must have an

acceptably diverse workforce. BACKGROUND To understand the role and/or goals of

affirmative actions programs we should define what the broad definition of what

affirmative action is and what caused its development. The phase

"affirmative action" was used in a racial discrimination context.

Executive Order No. 10,925 issued by President John F. Kennedy in 1961. The

order indicated that federal contractors should take affirmative action to

ensure job applicants and employees are treated "without regard to their

race, creed, or national origin." A person could define this statement as

an order to imply equal access and nothing else. Subsequently, Executive Order

11246 issued by President Johnson in September 1965, "mandated affirmative

action goals for all federally funded programs and moved monitoring and

enforcement of affirmative action programs out of the White House and into the

Labor Department." Affirmative action "refers to various efforts to

deliberately take race, sex, and national origins into account to remedy past

and current effects of discrimination. Its primary goal is to ensure that women

and minorities are widely represented in all occupations and at all

organizational levels" (Tompkins, 1995, p.161). Another definition of

affirmative action according to Barbara Bergmann is "planning and acting to

end the absence of certain kinds of people-those who belong to groups that have

been subordinated or left out-from certain jobs and schools" (1997 p.7).

Tracing the history of affirmative action, laws against racial discrimination

have proved inadequate for workplace integration because they often provide

remedies only after the fact. Affirmative action requires proactive steps to

provide equal opportunities in employment as well as access to education. Many

affirmative action programs were born from Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of

1964. Title VII references to affirmative action programs were brought about

"because of the history of discrimination in the United States, certain

groups are viewed as disadvantage in the current marketplace. Thus affirmative

action laws impose temporary requirements to correct underutilization of these

groups (e.g., goals and timetables for increasing the number of minorities and

women in a facility)" (Gutman, 1993, p.9). Prior to these laws and the

Title VII law, the U.S workforce was primarily dominated by white males.

Although, still somewhat white male dominated, quotas that were designed through

affirmative action programs have helped achieve some representation of women and

minorities in the current work force. Some remedies brought about through

affirmative action programs include goal setting, quotas, and timetables. GOALS

AND QUOTAS The term goal "refers to specific outcomes which, when achieved,

will result in equal employment opportunity and equitable representation"

(Hall & Albrecht, 1979, p.47-78). Goals and hiring quotas vary somewhat in

their function. Goals generally are long range plans that organizations use and

there are no expected minimum or maximum limitations. Quotas by comparison,

"establishes a definite number of people who must be hired. A Company

cannot by law, use quotas unless it has been ordered to do so by a court to

remedy a past action" (Hall & Albrecht, 1979, p.47-78). Deficiency

correction is the primary target of goal setting through affirmative action. For

an organization to be effective with goals, they must be realistic, attainable,

and monitored by the human resource department. Affirmative action programs

generally achieve their set goals through several common practices called

outreach programs. First, there are special recruiting programs where women and

minorities will most likely be found. These special outreach programs often

target black universities and female dominated educational facilities. A second

outreach program involves special advertising. Generally, this is also

implemented in areas that are heavily populated by women and minorities similar

to that of recruiting programs. Through outreach programs like the ones

mentioned above, goals can be attained to achieve equity and representation

without forgoing higher educated and skilled applicants. PROGRAM JUSTICATION

These programs can be justified because discrimination is still apparent in the

United States today. A 1990 study by the University of Chicago?s National

Opinion Research Center found that the majority of white Americans still believe

blacks to be inferior. For example, 53% of non-black respondents said they

thought blacks were less intelligent than whites, 62% said they thought blacks

were less patriotic, 62% said they thought blacks were lazier, and 78% said they

thought blacks "preferred to live off welfare." The National

Assessment of Educational Progress, a series of national standardize tests,

evaluates students on their proficiency in reading, writing and science. They

divide and compare these results to better understand the effectiveness of

public schools. Their results suggest a large imbalance in the educational

quality received by whites and other races. The most noticeable imbalance in the

three fundamentals of learning was the most important, reading. When students

cannot read well, they usually cannot succeed in other subject areas. With the

background of affirmative action and its programs established we should evaluate

some of the problems with affirmative action and if affirmative action programs

work. Opponents against affirmative action programs often believe that the

system currently in place is a misuse of the original intent of affirmative

action. The programs as they apply now are detrimental to the operation of the

job market, to white males, and to the groups it is supposed to benefit. They

further contend affirmative action causes reverse discrimination. It is not good

practice for Opponents "pro" affirmative action to use it as a way to

make up for past discrimination. Another problem caused by affirmative action is

that it often places a stigma on any groups, which receive preferential

treatment, especially on individuals who earn positions because of their

ability. Opponents of affirmative action programs believe that these programs

when handled properly through the human resources department within an

organization can minimize the negative references received regarding hiring

practices. Nye states "that positive information regarding an employee?s

job qualifications should minimize assumptions of incompetence associated with

affirmative action hiring programs. In other words, when co-workers have

information that clearly describes an individual?s job qualifications, they

should be less likely to assume that he or she was hired solely on race or

gender"(1998). By making this information available within the

organization, it would help remove the pressures from the employee and co-worker

regarding the hiring practices. This could further help the organization in the

area of productivity, public relations within the community, and morale. By

increasing morale, you maybe able to retain more employees, recruitment made

easier, and motivate employees into a very competitive workforce. Opponents of

affirmative action also do not believe that women and minorities will be treated

fairly without affirmative action programs. Opportunities in today?s workplace

are extremely competitive. Glazer states that "the battle over affirmative

action today is a contest between a clear principle on the one hand and a clear

reality on the other. The principle is that ability, qualifications, and merit,

independent of race, national origin, or sex should prevail when one applies for

a job or promotion, or for selective institutions for higher education, or when

one bids for contracts. The reality is that strict adherence to this principle

would result in few African Americans getting jobs, admissions, and

contracts" (1998). With that being said, women and minorities cannot

possibly have a fair chance in today?s society without positive affirmative

action programs. However, with affirmative action, it has been noted that their

incentives to achieve success may be decreased because "preferential

treatment can lead to the patronization of minorities and women workers and

students. By "patronization" I mean the setting of a lower standard of

expected accomplishment because of the belief that these people are not as

capable of meeting a higher standard" (Loury, 1997). With a white male

dominated workforce, negative public perceptions, and low self-esteem of

applicants, affirmative action offers a solution for race and gender equity.

Further stated, everyone in America should be afforded equal opportunity. If

this cannot be achieved voluntarily, then we must continue to take action to

remedy these situations. Opponents of affirmative action won a landmark victory,

in 1998, with the passage of California?s Proposition 209. This proposition

abolished all public-sector affirmative action programs in the state in

employment, education and contracting. Clause(C) of Prop. 209 permits gender

discrimination that is "reasonably necessary" to the "normal

operation" of public education, employment and contracting. In 1998, The

ban on use of affirmative action in admissions at the University of California

went into effect. UC Berkeley had a 61% drop in admissions, and UCLA had a 36%

decline. This decline strengthens the position of the Pro side of affirmative

action. However, a contingency plan has been established. According to a source

(who asked to remain nameless), UC Berkeley has a program to actively recruit

more minority students that falls out of the guidelines established by prop.

209. These types of "loop holes" can ultimately hurt the various

studies on the effectiveness of anti-affirmative action laws. LOOPHOLES

"Loop holes" are exceptions to the rules or standards. It?s a way

around the system. Opponents for affirmative action might feel that the

Washington State government utilized such a "loop hole" in 1997. Under

an affirmative action program criticized as the ultimate example of preferential

treatment by supporters against affirmative action, the Washington State

government hired more white men than African Americans did or any other minority

group. In fact, white men fell second to white women being hired (Brune). The

program in question is Washington State?s "plus three" program,

according to Tom Brune of the Seattle Times, "allows the state to hire

people who qualify for affirmative action over finalists with higher job-test

scores. White men qualify because the state?s affirmative action policy cover

not only people of color and women, but also Vietnam-era veterans, disabled

veterans and people with disabilities. Majority of the veterans are white men

and nearly half of them are disabled in the State of Washington". Another

example of how affirmative action works for the disadvantaged can be found in

Hayward, California. Bonnie Kellogg was admitted into the government?s Small

Business Administration program that gives her company competitive advantages in

its quest for government and large corporate contracts. Prior to 1995,

Kellogg?s chances of getting into this program, officially known as the 8(a)

Business Development program, would have been slim to none. However, in 1995

court ruling stemming from a law suit by a white business owner alleging

"reverse discrimination" relaxed government standards. This ruling as

allow for whites, Egyptians and Iranians, who fall outside the SBA?s minority

designation easier access to the program. This relaxation of the rules as helped

non-minorities business owners greatly. Report K. Oanh Ha of the Knight Rider

Tribune finds a, a big statistical change. From 1968 until mid-1998, only 40

businesses owned by whites and non-minorities out of 13,400 firms nationally

were admitted, were admitted into the 8(a) program. So far this year, 74

non-minority companies have been admitted. (1999) SENORITY Seniority must be

examined because in my opinion it is the most widely used preferential treatment

policy in the American workplace? With affirmative action being view as

preference by many Americans and seniority being an unchallenged

"rule-of-thumb." In an article by Paul Rockwell he explains, "The

seniority system may be legitimate, but it is no less preferential in its

execution than affirmative action. When layoffs take place by seniority, many

highly skilled women, many well-qualified people of color, among others, are

bumped out of their jobs by less qualified older white males. In a seniority

system, the last hired is the first fired, whether the employee is more skilled

and competent than an employee protected by seniority. (1999)." Richard

Lester, author of Manpower Planning, believes that seniority places less

qualified employees ahead of employees who are often better educated, more

skilled in computers. Arthur Whitehill & Shin Ichi Takezawa in Work Ways,

concluded the same thoughts "Younger worker in some cases are more

competent than older workers because of [them being} better education, greater

adaptability and physical fitness." The public sector and much of the

private sector have recognized seniority for quite sometime. We can find this

system practiced by older teachers at various universities who are often

protected by tenure. Professor Daniel Barber has even stated in candid

conversion that when he was the department chair for the Master of Public

Administration he took care of the tenured faculty first. Knowing this, why do

Opponents of affirmative action, have appeared to be, judgmental of about

so-called "merit" and "preference", why isn?t there the

same concern about the biggest workplace exception to strict meritocracy ?

Seniority? Seniority is yet another way to protect the "good ?o boys

networks". Found in many of the historically white male dominated

professions, for example, Firefighters, police, school superintendents, and

college professors. Coming from a public sector background (Disabled Army War

Veteran, Bureau of Prisons office administrator, Department of Veterans Affairs

administrator, and to many federal internships to count) I support the seniority

system in those places where affirmative action is still in place. Workplace

should reflect the diversity of the community it serves, seniority is a fair

system of labor management relations. Seniority gives employees for the

personnel problems and private preferences of an employer. However, seniority is

a widely used exception to strict merit system only if the workplace is

democratic and applied with affirmative action the workplace can become more

inclusive. Where affirmative action is repealed, seniority loses some of its

legitimacy. I argue that only loses some of its legitimacy because I personally

was retained as an employee in a seniority situation. I was the last hired but I

was not fired. In short, the scope of seniority and affirmative action are

similar. The goal of seniority is job security and affirmative action is

integration; both goals are good for America. The American labor movement has a

major stake in seniority. The movement should embrace affirmative action because

in good conscience it should not take advantage of one and not honor the other.

Basically, benefiting for seniority practices but opposing affirmative action

for others. If affirmative action is repealed, seniority should go as well.

Labor unions and movements should concentrate on saving affirmative action. At a

time when all progressive social policies are under attack, unity between women,

labor, and people of color is imperative. Seniority and affirmative action

should stand or fall together. CONCLUSION Ultimately, the controversy

surrounding affirmative action programs today will continue into the future.

Society as a whole does not appear to be ready to relinquish its negative

perception of the hiring practices brought about by Title VII. However, the

benefits brought about this act has greatly increased the opportunity for women

and minorities in employment that may not have otherwise been available. These

programs have offered hope to some if not all-socioeconomic groups that they

will be afforded the opportunity of equal employment and/or representation in

our society. Furthermore, human resource departments in the public sector will

have to become more skilled in implementing positive affirmative action programs

if we are to reap the full benefits from them. Finally, Affirmative action is

not a cure-all. It will not eliminate racial discrimination, nor will it

eliminate competition for scare resources. Affirmative action programs can only

ensure that everyone has a fair chance at what is available. They cannot direct

us to the social policies necessary so people do not have to compete for scarce

resources in the first place. The larger question to ask is why are there not

enough decent paying, challenging and safe jobs for everyone? Why are there not

enough seats in the universities for everyone who wants an education? Expanding

opportunity for people of color means expanding not only their access to

existing jobs & education, but also removing the obstacles that cause these

resources to be limited.


Bergmann, Barbara (1997). In Defense of Affirmative Action: New York: Sage

Publications, Inc. Brune, Tom (1998). Nearly half of all affirmative-action

hires are white. Seattle Times ? Internet Edition. November 6, 1999, on the

world wide web:http://www.seattletimes.com/news/local/article/html98

/plus_020998.html. Ezorsky, Gertrude (1991). Racism*Justice: The Case for

Affirmative Action. Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press. Glazer, Nathan

(1998). In Defense of Preference. The New Republic, 218 (14), 18-25. Gutman,

Arthur (1993). EEO Law and Personnel Practices. California: Sage Publications,

Inc. Ha, Oamh K. (1999). Rules help white entrepreneurs qualify as

disadvantaged. Chicago Tribune ? Internet Edition. Retrieved Saturday,

November 6, 1999, on the world wide web:http://www.chicagotribune.com/business/smallbusiness/article/article/0,2669,art-34423,ff.html

Hall, F. S., & Albrecht, M. H. (1979). The Management of Affirmative Action.

California: Goodyear Publishing. Heilman, M. E., Block, C. J., Stathatos, P.

(1997). "The Affirmative action stigma of incompetence". Academy of

Management Journal, 40 (3), 603-625. Horne, Gerald (1992). Reversing

Discrimination: The Case for Affirmative Action. Ithaca, New York: Cornell

University Press. Lester, Richard (1948). Manpower Planning in a Free Society.

Washington, D.C. Foundation publishing. Loury, Glenn (1997). How to mend

affirmative action. Public Interest (127), 33-45. Nye, David (1998) Affirmative

action and the stigma of incompetence. The Academy of Management Executive, 12

(1), 88-92. Pasour, Ernest (1999). Affirmative Action: A Counter- Productive

Policy. The Freeman, 3 (7), 23-32. Sklar, Holly (1995). Chaos or Community?:

Seeking Solutions, Not Scapegoats for Bad Economics. Boston: South End Press.

Tompkins, Jonathon (1995). Human Resource Management in Government New York:


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