Excerpts from two Supreme Court decisions upholding affirmative action

WASHINGTON -- Excerpts from two Supreme Court decisions Wednesday upholding affirmative action plans: Sheet Metal Workers vs. EEOC

Justice William Brennan, delivering the opinion for the court:


'Petitioners, joined by the Solicitor General, argue that the membership goal, the fund order and other orders which require petitioners to grant membership preferences to nonwhites are expressly prohibited by Section 706 (a part of the Civil Rights Act), which defines the remedies available under Title 7. Petitioners and the Solicitor General maintain that (the section) authorizes a district court to award preferential relief only to the actual victims of unlawful discrimination. ... We reject this argument, and hold that (the section) does not prohibit a court from ordering, in appropriate circumstances, affirmative race-conscious relief as a remedy for past discrimination. Specifically, we hold that such relief may be appropriate where an employer or a labor union has engaged in persistent or egregious discrimination, or where necessary to dissipate the lingering effects of pervasive discrimination.'

'The purpose of affirmative action is not to make identified victims whole, but rather to dismantle prior patterns of employment discriminatin and to prevent discrimination in the future. Such relief is provided to the classs as a whole rather than to individual members; no individual is entitled to relief, and beneficiaries need not show that they were themselves victims of discrimination.'

Justice Byron White, in dissent:

'Contrary to the court's views, the cumulative effect of the revised affirmative action plan and the contempt judgments against the union established not just a minority membership goal but also a strict racial quota that the union was required to attain. We have not heretofore approved this kind of racially discriminatory hiring practice, and I would not do so now. ... The remedy is inequitable in my view.'

Justice William Rehnquist, joined by Chief Justice Warren Burger, in dissent:

'I express my belief that Section 706 forbids a court from ordering racial preferences that effectively displace non-minorities except to minority individuals who have been the actual victims of a particular employer's racial discrimination.'

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