This episode is from the WNYC archives. It may contain language which is no longer politically or socially appropriate.
Jay Nelson Tuck moderates. He describes the previous year's dispute between George Meany and A. Philip Randolph at the annual AFL-CIO meeting.
I. Philip Sipser, labor lawyer and Chairman of the Waterfront Committee of the Urban League of Greater New York, is the guest.
Panelists include Mike Wall, Barbara Benmolche, Ethel Riley, Mark Gerrity, James Cardinal, Charles Rosema.
Sipser does not believe legislative action is required to protect jobs, but does believe that the commission must use it's investigative rights.
Sipser describes how the waterfront hiring system worked in the past - based on the whims of the hiring boss. A law called the Waterfront Compact was put in place under Dewey, which eliminated the hiring agent - called the "shape up" method of hiring. Now instead of the hiring agent standing in the street, he comes into the hiring hall run by the states of New York and New Jersey. Though this has eliminate a great deal of corruption, the continuance of the the shape up method has continued racial discrimination because the hiring agents do not choose negro longshoremen. He and the Urban League recommend a hiring rotation.
Discussion of privately owned piers. He puts responsibility on the industry - both management and the union.
Audio courtesy of the NYC Municipal Archives WNYC Collection
WNYC archives id: 72079
Municipal archives id: LT8844
This is a machine-generated transcript. Text is unformatted and may contain errors.
Does discrimination exist in the hiring of negro longshoreman What is the difference between the Urban League and the end of a lacy pay do unions discriminate against Negroes and Puerto Ricans is the state commission on discrimination doing anything about the situation on the waterfront will automation affect Negro employment on the New York dock how can we avoid employment quota system. Or the answers to these and other questions listen now to campus press conference every Sunday at this time editors of college newspaper is question a newsworthy personality all moderator on campus press conference the noted newspaper man and editor Jane Nelson talk now to introduce the panel and today's guest here is Mr Tucker Good evening last September there was a sensation at the national convention of the A.F.L. C.I.L. when President George Meany hurled some hot words at VICE PRESIDENT A Philip Randolph the dispute arose because Randolph wanted the A.F.L.-CIO to take action about discrimination against Negroes in job on the New York waterfront and many felt the issue had been raised at the wrong time later on the heat between the two friends called in this past week many addressed the National Urban League here in New York and told them the A.F.L. C.I.L. would act on the problem misdemeanors promise represents a long step forward to the Urban League which has been actively fighting to end that job discrimination our guest this evening is the man who started it all. I Philip Simpson a labor attorney who is also chairman of the waterfront Committee of the Urban League of Greater New York it was not a report on New York waterfront conditions by Mr sepsis committee that moved Mr Randolph to demand action by the National A.F.L. C.I.L.. Here tonight to question Mr Surface or our Mike wall of the N.Y.U. square Journal Barbara Van Marsh area of Hunter College that's all right lane of the Fordham school of education my guarantee and James cardinal both of the Fordham student bar association and Charles rose a member of the Columbia Spectator who is also chairman of the Columbia branch of the N.A.S. E.P. Jim you have the first question. Mr SR as an attorney do you feel that remedial legislation is needed to protect the employment rights of negro longshoreman it would appear to me Jim that the media legislation is not required because of the broad investigatory powers of the state commission against discrimination the commission has a subpoena powers it can then determine the facts by getting testimony which as a result of the subpoena powers may be. Compelled under the various sections of the Act under which the State Commission Against Discrimination Act Therefore it is my judgment that additional legislation is not required what is required to some action by the state commission and by the newly formed. Attorney General's Office on civil rights Barbara well. Just what is the situation on the waterfront what have you found out in other words it's a claim that there has been some kind of discrimination how is this discrimination managed well the answer to that question. Requires just a little time and a little history of the operation of hiring practices on the waterfront Now prior to nine hundred fifty two and fifty three longshoreman one hired in the following fashion. They want down to the west side or to the east side out on the street form the semicircle a hiring agent we're down to pick and choose which of the employees he wanted to work for that day as a result the various members of the aisle a became increasingly dependent upon the whims of the hiring boss This led to a good deal of corruption as a result of that corruption there was an investigation there were many investigations but the last investigation made under the Dewey administration resulted in a law called the water front company it was under this law that the so-called shake up hiring system was supposed to have been eliminated. The shape up system being the system which I just described namely that the hiring agent would come into the center of the summary circle pick Lee pick and choose those man who only wanted to get home he chose for employment on that day. They. The attempt to eliminate. The shape up system was really the basis for the waterfront compact Now that did not happen what happens now. Is that instead of a shape up taking place on West Street outside of the docks that shape up now takes place in employment information centers these are holes run by the governments of the state of New York and the state of New Jersey and what happens is that the hiring agent instead of coming out on the straight and picking out the people who are to work that day comes into the hiring law which is now run under the as I said under the supervision of both the states both. Governments of the state of New York and New Jersey and if they pick out these men now one of them what has happened is the result of that a good deal of the corruption is gone that's true but as a result of the continuance of the Shape Up method of hiring there has been a continued discrimination against Negro employees because of these hiring agents do not choose Negro employees let me give you two examples at the Brooklyn Army terminal base there hasn't been a single Negro longshoreman and the one which you are probably more familiar with and which the audience is more familiar with are the is employment at the luxury liners where all these big boats come in you've seen these longshoreman carry the luggage of the boat or carrier luggage on to the boat there isn't a single Negro longshoreman employed in any of those monkey realigns. Well you mention the Brooklyn army base misperception is not a government installation that's correct and objections have been registered to my knowledge for the past twenty years when the government and very recently with Mr Nixon's committee on government contracts. Some sharp objections were registered with the U.S. government contracts committee. With respect to the Brooklyn Army terminal base and requests were made that the army cancel the contract it had with American stevedores Inc which is the employer of these are these employees of the Brooklyn Army terminal base but as of yet nothing has been done by the federal government in this area I've gotten no answer at all from Mr next and that's why we have got not answer from one of his agents who is coming to and to New York but so far there hasn't been anything done about it at all. After what other than the shakeup system could be used to eliminate discrimination on the docks Well the Urban League as well as many others who are experts in the field of hiring have suggested that at least with respect to the casual employees that there be a rotational system of hiring this in our judgment is the only impartial objective way in which hiring can be conducted so as to be fair to everybody. Otherwise I think that we have a continuation of the old shape up system in which the. Prejudices of the hiring agent come into play. Mike the Urban League has also attacking the genesis of seniority award system and they are every league ascent of the system will not only not help the situation it would make it worse How is that. Well the it was the report which was submitted to Mr Meaney well in advance of the other convention that resulted in those blowup Mr. Tuck was talking about. The Waterfront Committee of the Urban League prepared an analysis. Of. The Jensen award. The gentian award actually excuse me Mr Wood to tell us what the Jensen award hears and I think perhaps we're proceeding now that the Jensen award is or is an award which was handed down by Professor Jensen of Cornell in which he made certain decisions for both of the IRA and the industry in connection with certain provisions relating to seniority in other words it's an award which said to the parties here are the seniority clause under which you're going to operate in the forthcoming country. The fact is that a. Clear reading of the award shows quickly that ninety five percent of the award is predicated upon an agreement between the IRA and the and the industry and otherwise only five percent of the of the issues coming before the arbitrator that he determines other other than that ninety five percent of the issues what determined by the parties themselves what happened here was that this NG Yardy all want actually phrases the current situation on the waterfront. So that employees who are regular or prominent employees from a regular point and permanent employees are followers of been there a long time learner a long time will still be there that's correct and so that part of the new growth can go then yes so that the history so the history of discrimination is in a sense frozen into the award I don't want to become too technical about the proposition but that's the essence of the of the proposition. You are speaking for a moment again about the privately owned peers in these instances who is responsible for discriminatory acts the employee or the route of the employer or the union Well I might say that in all fairness to the employer heard since I since I am a union attorney this is a situation in which both the industry and the unions share responsibility. I might say that. The industry on the waterfront also should take responsibility for the fact that up to just the several years ago there were no Negro employees employed in nonunion categories namely you know white collar field. But in connection with longshoreman I think it is fair to say it's only fair for me to say that the blame rests equally upon that management people as well as the union. When you mention the big ships that's the so called per store local along Sharman isn't it does that is that local discriminate against Negroes more or less than most of us are I do not believe I do not believe that that the person or local discriminates more or less against Negroes than most of the other local unions you have to remember it was only ten or twelve years ago that most of the negroes were isolated in one local union in Brooklyn local nine sixty eight I represented that local union for many years and that was the only local in the entire waterfront that didn't have peer jurisdiction a local without peer jurisdiction meant that that local could not give its members any jobs I only peer when you say peer jurisdiction I assume you mean that a local covers one or more peers and only its members may work on those pick it that's correct that's correct in a sense it's a geographical jurisdiction peers X. Y. and Z.. Mike if we can only have the I want to find situations specifically in twenty one prominent general suppose that the Urban League succeeds in getting negroes and quota weekends and other and other fields isn't there a possibility in hasn't it happened that industry has set a quota system saying that a certain percent of their employees shall be negroes in a certain percentage of the Puerto Rican and hasn't doesn't exist and if so how can it be abolished Well I I don't know specifically and what industry you're referring to I don't know of any quota systems are such that exist in industry I know that industry either rejects negroes and Puerto Ricans as a group or if they accept them. Then they're on the lowest rung or are the ladder of employment Now if that's the only answer I can give you unless you're prepared to be more specific about the quota system in any particular industry you know my child what have the state commission against discrimination in New York and the division against discrimination in New Jersey. To correct this situation on the waterfront Now let me answer that as candidly as I know how. And this I I would like to speak as an individual rather than as a waterfront chairman of the Urban League the state commission against discrimination in New York and the division against discrimination in New Jersey have done very very poorly in this fight against discrimination on the waterfront Are there was an amazing statement which was made by a commission of Kauto who is now the chairman of the New York State Commission in connection with this investigation. The state commission against discrimination in New York also made an analysis of the Johnson award in the course of that analysis this is what Commissioner Carter said and I quote directly from his statement this agency has been concerned for a considerable time with General charges of the existence of bias in hiring practices on the New York waterfront but the unique hiring system which prevails in the port based in part on favoritism happenstance and other considerations has made proof difficult to come by it has posed difficulties which exist nowhere else in scads experience now again. I would like to be fair to commission a Carter and to the state commission against discrimination by saying that he is probably right. That they are hiring situation on the long shore poses difficulties which exist possibly in few places in the nation but just because proof is difficult doesn't mean that an agency which is clothed with subpoena powers should not have gotten that information for example there should be some rational explanation. By the industry and the local union involved as to why no Negro has ever been hired as a long shore man at the luxury line appears it should be some rational explanation as to why there are no negroes hired at the Brooklyn Army terminal but it's now an agency clothed with subpoena power ought to be able to get that information and say to the public that this is what we have learned when the Urban League very recently confronted commission of Carter and the state commission against discrimination had a meeting with these facts and the response by Commissioner Carter was wholly on satisfactory if you have a follow up to ask well what reason is there for this apparent unwillingness to. Go into the waterfront that you ation is it political is it something else well again let me speak personally about this thing it is my judgment and I so stated to our commission and caught up that the political currents and the political influence on the waterfront is so great that the pressures not only on the Wagner administration on the Rockefeller administration but on all the previous city and state administrations has been so enormous I don't want to front in a sense has been let along on this subject. Now the waterfront is a in a sense a show place for the nation and if we are to combat discrimination in employment one of the your media the object of his must speed the elimination of discrimination on the New York waterfront the situation apply only in New York or is it just as bad elsewhere I don't know whether you are aware of this or any of the other members of the panel are aware of this but normally a longshore job is characterized as a Negro job for example an