This episode is from the WNYC archives. It may contain language which is no longer politically or socially appropriate.
Abrams, Chairman of the State Commission Against Discrimination, answers question about discrimination in housing and employment.
Marvin Sleeper hosts.
Panelists: Ruth Corsnick, Jim Farrell, Mike Spielman, and Alan Siegel
The progress made over the next year will be legislative and administrative. To stop discrimination in employment, change must be industry-wide. A state-wide anti-discrimination housing bill and the Sharkey-Brown-Isaacs bill against discrimination in housing. The Commission can institute regulatory action in the event of a complaint. Migration of Puerto Ricans and "Negroes" is an indication that employment is widening. Minorities in department stores, public accommodations from which they have previously been excluded. Most notable gains in insurance, banking, brewing, railroads. A negro woman from New York was hired to work for an airline. Failure to hire by the airlines has been mentioned abroad. Hiring of a negro helicopter pilot. Specifications for hiring women as airline hostesses: the airlines have always felt the girl must be a "banker's daughter type": good complexion, good legs, certain weight and age. "A negro girl can have a good complexion and be qualified to do the chores one has to do in airlines." TWA has promised to make efforts to hire in flight capacities. Public hearing has been scheduled. American Airlines, probable cause has been found. Differences between upstate and downstate complaints: housing is the greatest problem because migrations have increased. A non-discriminatory pattern in industry in Syracuse, but there is lag in advancement. All cities upstate, including New York, jobs are available for non-whites, but no applicants apply. To improve housing, a supply of housing is required; the vacancy rate is less than 1% in the city. Reforms should include loans for buying and renting. The current complaint system takes more time than they'd prefer. He doesn't favor a penal law for offense. Probable cause was found against TWA, and the president resigned. They are deciding whether or not to redefine their policy.
Audio courtesy of the NYC Municipal Archives WNYC Collection
WNYC archives id: 72043
Municipal archives id: LT7893
This is a machine-generated transcript. Text is unformatted and may contain errors.
Will there be civil rights progress in New York state during the coming year and what industries has New York been most successful in bringing about anti discriminatory hiring one of the bottlenecks of the state commission against discrimination to the state legislature outlaw discrimination and private housing. For the answers to these and other questions let's go now to your city stations cannabis press conference each week at this time in this transcribed discussion editors of college newspapers question a news where they personality Marvins labor award winning reporter and columnist for The New York Journal America's moderator of the service now to introduce the panel in tonight's guest here is Mr Slater Good evening and welcome to another edition of campus press conference our guest tonight is Mr Charles Abrams Mr A move the chairman of the state commission against discrimination this week Governor Harmon and his message for the opening session of the state legislature call for a statewide anti-bias private housing bill the flood just like your past is such a measure it will be Mr Abrams commission that will administer the build so let's find out just what the bill means and why it is needed and here's a question Mr Abrams our campus press conference report is record look of the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism Jennifer out of the for the lexigram Mike Spielman of the C.C.N.Y. tappers and Alan Siegel of the N.Y.U. square journal and what about the first question from you might be a limb question or Abrams what will be the nature of the civil rights progress made in New York State next year well I think that the progress that will be made will be both on the legislative level and on the administrative level. By that I mean this that in legislation as Governor Harriman said in his message last week there are two items of legislation which he favors one is to give the commission. The power to initiate investigations on its own motion instead of on waiting by waiting on complaints that's extremely important because I believe that if discrimination in employment is to be ended that it must be done on an industry wide basis rather than on the basis of individual complaints today about one percent of the industries in New York state employee fifty percent of the workers and the decision of a single personnel manager in a plant employing ten thousand or fifteen thousand workers can borrow a whole race from employment in that company and in an industry employing tens of thousands so that I believe that if real progress has to be made we must do it on an industry wide basis that is where we get a complaint against. One company and that company feels that. That it's being singled out for action that we should have the right to call in other industries as we did in the case of the airlines that's one piece of legislation that I think is very important and as governor I'm and said. Eight states have such legislation and New York lags behind and all of the eight states at the meeting of the Governors Conference on Civil Rights a few weeks ago all agreed that that was one of their most important tools in ending discrimination a second Bill. That would get it is to outlaw discrimination in large scale private housing. That is in multiple dwellings. Called horizontal dwellings where ten or more houses are owned by a single person that died like a break in for a moment there recently the city passed that anti-bias private housing bill the shocking Brown Isaacs Bill. How would this dovetail with a state bill would it be. That the state you would administered outside of New York City and the state bill would apply outside of New York City or would you both cooperate the city and the state and ministering it in New York City well a great deal of this of this prejudice is found well that's hard to say until the bell is introduced but if the previous presidents are followed where are they sitting is entered as day several rights bill and subsequently a state law is passed the state would get jurisdiction that's not necessarily so but I don't believe that the fewer agencies that are. On hand to administer. Discrimination to administer the discrimination problem I think the less confusion there as among the people so that. I think that I did without predicting as to what the bill would say but on the basis of previous precedent that it would be an all state bill to apply to the whole state including New York City giving the commission the jurisdiction Well then after a six month hassle in which this bill has been in the headlines as far as New York City is concerned and it became almost a hot political issue when it was put over until after the election it was finally passed in New York City do you mean that after all this if a the state passes a bill that the city's powers. And trying to eliminate bias in private housing would be gone not necessarily it depends on what the bill would say he. If the city would one would want to retain jurisdiction of it then the state bail would apply to areas outside of the state. I'm in no position to say what the bill will provide Jim Fassel also using it if it were a state wide authority that it would rest in my hands of the state commission against criminal action in the light of the fact we have a Republican legislature do you think that there's much chance that they would prefer to put such unfortunate powers in the hands of the attorney general or as on a national level a special assistant attorney general set up for such a job well there again I can't predict what the what the Republican Party would want to do and the attorney general now has the right to file complaints and he has a man in charge of filing complaints with the commission in the event that the attorney general discovered as some discriminatory action. But last year when an agency was sought to be set up in the attorney general's office with an appropriation of a hundred thousand dollars all of the civic and social organizations in New York State opposed it as a unit because of the conflict and confusion that would bring. My feeling is that civil rights should be administered in a single agency so that a person who is a green knows where to apply well and that your feeling that the state agency should take over the city responsibilities and that well I I can't say because the commission has taken no position on that bill and I I'm not in a position to say just what happens I will say that on the discrimination bracing F.H.A. and V.A. did housing and publicly aided housing previously that the history of it was that the city passed such a bell and then the state assumed jurisdiction so that if that's a precedent that's what would happen Alan Thicke commission of could you tell us just how the commission works. In cases of discrimination yes we have the Right now only to instant Dhoni to institute regulatory action on the basis of a complaint so that a complainant comes to the commission and files a verified complaint. That complaint is assigned to one of the five commissioners by me as chairman and thereafter the complaint is investigated by the commissioner to whom the complaint has been assigned the commissioner may determine that there is probable discrimination or he may determine that there is no probable discrimination in the event that he determines that there is probable discrimination he makes a finding to that effect it's called a finding of probable cause and then. Goes into conciliation and confidential conciliation with the respondent with the employer. And attempts to have the discriminatory practices removed if he fails to affect the conciliation. Then. That's referred to me and I appoint three commission as. Then the commissioner who heard the complaint and those three commission as then have a public hearing at which all of the evidence pro and con is a deuced and they make a decision. They can throw out the case or if they find that there is discrimination then they make what is known as a cease and desist order which is reviewable by the court at which time the respondent again has a chance to have the decision of the commission is revealed through coarsening commission I've heard you mention the airlines earlier this evening and of the Harmons report mentioned several other industries including this as well as the airlines the hotels the railways and the banking industry in which areas would you feel that scatters and most successful so far in accomplishing and I discovered Tory policy Well I would say that the law has accomplished a great deal and economics has accomplished a great deal as well. With full employment. You. Naturally have a call upon the largest. Labor supply that is possible and the migration into New York City of American citizens from Puerto Rico and Negroes. Are is an indication of the fact that employment is widening simultaneously the law has. Without any pressures at all the law itself has widened employment you begin to see. Negroes and other minorities in department stores and in various enterprises from which they were previously barred and also in public accommodations such as restaurants and hotels great gains have been made specifically through the action of the commission I would say that within the last year or two the most notable gains have been made in insurance in banking in brewing in the railroads where for the first time. Yard conductors found working on the railroads. And other employers who employ easily previously barred. I also feel that considerable progress has been made in housing in F.H.A. and V.A. to housing where a survey revealed that many builders in projects upstate were accepting and nonwhites as well as whites in all white projects now not all of this receives a great deal of publicity. But the fact is that the law is having an impact both in public accommodations and in employment. As well as in. As in publicly aided housing going back to the airlines and as I recall there was one airline stewardess hired wasn't there a negro recently but that's really York City where we are in she was hired she lives in New York City and she she is going to fly out of the Newark Airport I said well what further progress do you expect during the year as far as their lines are going this is just one line and one person this is this is typical of the work of the commission. It takes a long time to break an industry of the industry the airline industry is a very peculiar industry and that. The hostesses and the pilots have always been of the white race and. From its what it might be known as a showcase industry this has been a very bad thing from the standpoint of American morale because these airlines fly the American flag abroad and discrimination or failure to hire by the airlines has been mentioned in in papers prominently abroad now the first break that came with the airlines was in the ground capacities and you'll find reservation agents and mechanics and other negroes nig members of the Negro race working in ground capacities but they were not present in flight capacities except that one pilot was working on a minor freight line affray line but never on passenger S.S. about a year ago New York Airways broke that pattern by hiring a negro pilot who has now been elevated to the captaincy That's the helicopter service. There after after continuous negotiations with airlines the Mohawk Airlines. Voluntarily without filing a complaint after negotiation with the commission which lasted for several months and decided to hire this hostess and it was a very interesting very interesting because he ocean. We had eight of the best Negro girls who were best qualified Negro girls interviewed at our office by the Mohawk Airlines and Miss Taylor was selected she's a nurse she attended college and she's a high school graduate and her father was an upstate farm of Truman's burg and she's a very nice girl and I feel that once you make the initial break in an industry such as the airlines that there is a greater likelihood that the other airlines will follow. And there are problems and the airlines have always felt that the girl must be what they call a bank has got a tight bath good complection good legs not more than a certain weight not over a certain age and specifications that very very rigid. I've always maintained that they grow girl can have good complection and. Be qualified to do the chores that one has to do on an airline Secondly this line was broken in baseball and it can be broken in in the airlines industry ensure Well do you have any plans to break through on any of the other major airlines in the foreseeable future yes public hearings have been scheduled in the case of two airlines and one of the airlines that is T.W.A. has promised to make efforts to hire in the flight capacities whether it doesn't not I can't say but the public hearing in that case has been scheduled and we're waiting we want to know about developments within the next thirty days that is a public hearing with the T.W.A. That's right that's by going to buy one of the another negro complaint and what about that you say to where lines were it which is the other the American Airlines probable cause has been found but it's in conciliation it hasn't as yet been scheduled for a hearing is that the same kind of a case where the story the story as it was all that's right course like there aside from the concentration the logic observation of Puerto Ricans in New York City as a likely source of complaints for you Do you notice any different patterns between upstate and downstate this discrimination yes we've just completed three studies cities upstate. And in Syracuse in the Albany Troy area and in Rochester and what is being revealed in those studies in common is that housing is offering. The greatest problem the migrations of increased for instance in Rochester we just learned that. The population is and has grown to about four percent over four percent of the population since one thousand nine hundred fifty and the increase in population upstate is over forty in the state as a whole is over forty two percent industries are expanding and they're calling for labor and negroes and Puerto Rican citizens American citizens broader ago are applying for for these jobs now. In in the upstate cities you have a mixed pattern in some cities in Syracuse for instance we find a nondiscriminatory pattern by the manufacturing industries and there are only a handful of industries. But there is considerable Irag in advancement and we find also and this is one of our main problems in all cities upstate as well as New York I think it's one of the outstanding problems of the commission and that is that very often jobs are available for nonwhites and no applicants apply for those jobs and this is this is a problem to us we never get complaints from those people