Unionization Obstructs Workplace Diversity

contractor still life with hardhat

Executive editor at The Nation, Richard Kim, claims diversity at the liberal publication is being stifled due to its unionized workforce.

Kim, in a recent interview with The American Prospect, claims that the union contract makes it nearly impossible to fire employees, which means the liberal publication has very few vacancies to fill with minorities.

Kim said, “The staff here is unionized, which means there is little job turnover,” and that The Nation “only get[s] to make a hire every four or five years.”

As The Washington Free Beacon reports, “The article examines liberal media’s struggles to turn its pro-diversity rhetoric into reality. The Nation ranked dead last among liberal publications for minority hires, according to the Prospect analysis.”

Unfortunately, unionization obstructing diversity in the workplace is not new and Big Labor has a long history of stifling diversity in the workplace.

Thankfully, Harry Alford, President of the National Black Chamber of Commerce, has spent years exposing a number of discriminatory union practices.

In congressional testimony regarding union salting, Alford stated:

Construction or trade unions have been a thorn in the side of the NBCC because of the discriminatory practices demonstrated throughout the nation. You can visit any or every union hall in the nation and you will notice an under represented count of African American workers. Whether it is Louisville, Kentucky, San Bernardino, California, Detroit, Michigan or right here in Indiana the representation of African American workers will be far less than what the demographics would indicate. There are even segregated union halls (one white hall, one Black hall) such as the cement workers in Indianapolis and the carpenters in Gary/Hammond, Indiana.

In a Forbes op-ed, Alford and former Competitive Enterprise Institute Labor Counsel Vincent Vernuccio point out that Big Labor aggressively supports Davis-Bacon laws, which is one of the last laws on the books from the Jim Crow era:

In 1931, Rep. Miles Clayton Allgood of Alabama spoke in support of the then Davis-Bacon bill on the House Floor, stating bluntly, “Reference has been made to a contractor from Alabama who went to New York with bootleg labor. That is a fact. That contractor has cheap colored labor that he transports, and he puts them in cabins, and it is labor of that sort that is in competition with white labor throughout the country.”


According to a February 2010 GAO report, “the Davis-Bacon Act stems from a Depression-era practice of transporting workers from lower-paying areas to bypass local workers who would demand a higher wage. The prevailing wage requirement was meant to prevent this practice by ensuring that workers on federal projects were paid at least the locally prevailing wage.”


Many of those transported workers were African American. The Act was created to prevent these workers from taking the jobs of white laborers. The true history of this legislation was that it was originally enacted as protectionist measure for white northern workers. Today, Davis-Bacon continues to discriminate against non-union firms, many of which are minority-owned.

Alford also testified on project labor agreements before the U.S. Commission for Civil Rights. In his testimony Alford highlighted the discriminatory impact of Project Labor Agreements against minorities:

98% of Black and Hispanic construction companies are non-union shops.  Thus, a Project Labor Agreement greatly limits the opportunities for Black and Hispanic firms whenever they are used.  The possibility of Black and Hispanic labor is greatly suppressed also.  There was a serious matter over the use of Project Labor Agreements when the Woodrow Wilson Bridge was about to be rebuilt.  Maryland’s Governor Glendenning demanded the use of a PLA while Virginia Governor Gilmore insisted on no usage.  Through research we compared the utilization of Black firms and employment on highway construction work for the states of Virginia and Maryland.  Maryland had a statewide PLA on its highway program while Virginia was a Right to Work program.  Virginia’s utilization of Black firms and employees was greater than Maryland by a 3:1 ratio.  That caught the attention of President George W. Bush and he ordered no PLA on the bridge project.  From there he eventually banned all PLA’s on federally funded projects as they “discriminate against women, minorities and small business”.


Right after his inauguration President Barack Obama issued his first Executive Order (February 9, 2009).  E.O. 13502 ordered all major federally funded projects to operate under a Project labor Agreement.  This is a major blow to women and minority owned businesses and employees.  Diversity is negatively affected.  If the U.S. Civil Rights Commission would do an audit on construction union employees they would find these construction crafts are in violation of Executive Order 11246.  They are discriminatory.  The US Department of Labor hides this by reporting racial employment by unions as a total number.  They never report exclusively on construction unions by craft.  If they did, it would uncover a disgrace.  The NBCC has been trying to get these numbers beginning in 1997 but to no avail.

While unions hang their hat on supporting racial equality, their actions prove otherwise.

One thought on “Unionization Obstructs Workplace Diversity

  1. Well, looks like the guilty corporate liberals are taking over the Nation into yet another anti-working-class apology rag.

    Unions are by historic definition cooperative associations of workers who come together democratically as equals to address their common concerns, complete with elected executives and regular meetings. They are a proven essential feature of building community and have been, and continue to be, the main and most successful way working people have won democracy, enlightenment and social justice and higher living standards across the globe for over the last four centuries. Anyone who says different is either indoctrinated or dishonest.

    Sure, of course, there are authoritarian power politics and anti-working class activity on the part of some corrupted or sold-out leaders (particularly in the US more than any other country). But that’s the influence of the capitalist-dominated economy and culture, not because of unions themselves. The indisputable historic fact everywhere is the forming unions is the most successful way working people have won liberties and living standards over the past four centuries–everywhere.

    THat includes diversity in the workplace, fought for and won by unions pushing for human rights, equity hiring, anti-racist work and equality of opportunity and advancement. For the Nation to say different shows a typical lack of understanding of history and anti-working-class snobbery of upper class bourgeois liberals.

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