Booker: hiring plan an ‘insult’ to the black community: 1970
Reginald Booker denounces the “Washington Plan” for integrating the building construction industry June 4, 1970 during a conference at the Labor Department.
The Labor Department’s plan for would require contractors, by May 31, 1974, to employ minority workers in percentages ranging from 25 to 43 percent, according to trade.
Booker, chair of the Washington Area construction Industry Task Force—a coalition of civil rights groups--termed the plan “unacceptable”
“We can’t support any plan that doesn’t guarantee us at least 90 percent of all jobs on all levels—70 to 80 percent because of population and 10 percent for reparations. This ‘Washington Plan’ is an insult to the intelligence of the black community,” Booker added.
The plan was to apply to all construction firms in the Washington, D.C. area having federal contracts totaling $500,000 or more.
The Washington Building and Construction Trades Council, composed of the differing craft unions, criticized the Washington Plan from the other side saying that 43 percent was “unattainable.”
“We do not see the administration requiring 40 percent minority employment in four years in any other industry or institution of our society. When is Mr. [President Richard M.] Nixon going to take such an action regarding the American Banking Association?”
Later in the month as the ‘Washington Plan’ moved forward, Booker threatened, “We plan to move physically onto construction sites” in July or August.
He also demanded that the task force serve as a watchdog over the hiring practices in order to enforce the Task Force’s alternative plan.
Booker’s concerns proved correct. Eight years later the Task Force sued saying that the Washington Plan had not been enforced since it was drawn up in 1970.
“Without agreeing or disagreeing with those charges, the Department of Labor signed a decree promising to set new hiring goals and to act to make certain that they are met,” The Washington Post reported June 10, 1978.
Of the 11 construction trades affected, only one had met its goals.
Many of the building trades, particularly higher skilled ones such as the elevator constructors union, had only token minority workers into the 21st Century.
Booker was primarily known for his opposition to new Washington, D.C. freeways and bridges, but engaged in a wide range of civil rights activities.
For a detailed account of Booker’s activism, victories and defeats, see washingtonareaspark.com/2020/01/28/the-d-c-black-liberati...
For more information and related images, see flic.kr/s/aHskSX8PSt
Photo by Brig Cabe. The image is courtesy of the D.C. Public Library Washington Star Collection © Washington Post.