Essay, Research Paper: Affirmative Action

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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. Bibliography 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:
/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:,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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