Affirmative Action Under Attack

March 30, 1979

Report Outline
Challenges to Job Programs
Four Decades of Federal Action
Obstacles to Full Job Equality
Special Focus

Challenges to Job Programs

Supreme Court Hearing on Kaiser Case

In the past 15 years, the United States has made progress toward eliminating discrimination in employment. Under pressure from the federal government to take “affirmative action” to prevent racial or sexual discrimination, many of the nation's businesses have made a concerted effort to hire and promote blacks, members of other minority groups and women. Complying with the government's anti-discrimination rules, however, frequently is time-consuming, complex and frustrating. Many employers complain that they are trapped between the government's demands to increase opportunities for women and minorities on the one hand, and, on the other, charges by white males that affirmative action constitutes reverse discrimination.

The Supreme Court on March 28 heard oral arguments in the case of Brian F. Weber, a Louisiana man who charged that a special program aimed at moving blacks and women into better jobs made him a victim of reverse discrimination. Weber was refused admission to an in-plant craft-training program at a plant operated by the Kaiser Aluminum and Chemical Corp. in Gramercy, La. He was turned down because half of the slots in the program were set aside for blacks and women. This affirmative action “set aside” in the training program had been agreed upon by Kaiser and the United Steelworkers union as part of a voluntary effort to increase minority participation in skilled jobs in the aluminum industry.

Weber went to federal court, contesting his rejection as reverse discrimination. He won in both federal district court and in a U.S. court of appeals (for the fifth circuit, New Orleans). The Steelworkers, the company and the Justice Department all asked the Supreme Court to review the appeals court's decision, and last December it agreed to do so.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Affirmative Action
Oct. 17, 2008  Affirmative Action Updated
Jul. 11, 2003  Race in America
Sep. 21, 2001  Affirmative Action in Undergraduate Admissions
Jan. 23, 1998  The Black Middle Class
Feb. 23, 1996  Getting Into College
Apr. 28, 1995  Rethinking Affirmative Action
May 17, 1991  Racial Quotas
Apr. 14, 1989  Is Affirmative Action Still the Answer?
Jul. 31, 1981  Affirmative Action Reconsidered
Mar. 30, 1979  Affirmative Action Under Attack
Affirmative Action
Diversity Issues
Equal Employment Opportunity & Discrimination