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Union Facts

Discrimination by Unions

The Center for Union Facts has obtained documents through the Freedom of Information Act demonstrating distressing abuse of equal-opportunity rights by labor leaders.

Between 2000 and 200X, labor unions faced 13,815 complaints of discrimination filed with the government's Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. These include:

  • 4,248 complaints of race discrimination
  • 3,386 complaints of age discrimination
  • 1,820 complaints of sex discrimination
  • 1,642 complaints of disability discrimination
  • 297complaints of religious discrimination

The Davis-Bacon Act was passed by Congress in 1934 with the strong support of labor unions. The Act requires construction firms contracting for the federal government to pay their workers “locally prevailing wages,” and it was passed by lawmakers with the explicit intention of keeping low-skilled African-American workers out of federal construction projects. American Federation of Labor (the “AFL” of today's AFL-CIO) president William Green testified that “colored labor is being sought to demoralize wage rates.”

In 1999, Harry Alford, president of the National Black Chamber of Commerce testified before Congress on the “racist roots” of the Davis-Bacon Act. Here are some notable statements from his testimony:

  • “The exclusivity effect of Davis-Bacon requirements encourages the construction trades to continue its activity of discrimination against African-American labor. Locally, regionally and nationally construction trades under-represent the African-American population. Go to any city or look at any major project and you will find a great disparity against African-American labor.”
  • “Let us look at a few examples. The City of Detroit has embarked on a major construction expansion including a new football stadium and a new major league baseball park — across the street from each other. Even though the City of Detroit has a population that is 77 percent Black, these two projects which have been declared 'union only' will, at best, average no more than 15 percent African American participation in the workforce. This is a disaster!”
  • “What is worse is that this paltry performance is going to exhaust the entire Detroit marketplace of Black union craftsmen. The other 'union only' or Davis-Bacon projects concurrently taking place will be virtually void of black employment in a city that is 77 percent black”
  • “Travel to Indianapolis where still, as of two days ago, they have segregated union halls. Go to the 'black union hall' for cement workers on 1502 Martin Luther King Ave. If you want white workers visit the 'white union hall' on North Sherman Ave. The same is for carpenters. Go to the hall on east 38th street for black workers and visit the hall on south Madison for white workers.”

The AFL-CIO still fights to preserve the Davis-Bacon Act. [Read Mr. Alford's full testimony]