Settlement in Race Discrimination Finalized After 37 Years

Judge Robert L. Carter of the Manhattan Federal District Court recently approved a $6.2 million settlement against Local 28 of the Sheet Metal Workers Union. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) filed the lawsuit 37 years ago in 1971, charging the union with race discrimination for failing to provide equal employment opportunities to nonwhite members. The final settlement compensates 156 Black and Hispanic sheet metal workers for lost wages for the years 1984 to 1991.

Until the late 1940s, the union’s constitution contained a provision excluding nonwhites from its membership. According to the EEOC, the union continued to discriminate. In order to prove discrimination, the EEOC relied, in part, on circumstantial evidence, which appeared powerful in this case. In 1974, for example, minority workers comprised only 3 percent of the union’s membership.

More can be read about the settlement in the New York Times article entitled, Settlement in Bias Suite that Stalled for 37 Years.

The settlement could not come at a better time. Today is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day — a day when we can reflect on the progress we have made as a nation while being mindful of the challenges ahead. Below is Dr. King’s I Have a Dream speech: