United Steelworkers of America, AFL-CIO-CLC v. Weber

PETITIONER: United Steelworkers of America, AFL-CIO-CLC
LOCATION: C and P Telephone Baltimore Headquarters

DOCKET NO.: 78-432
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1975-1981)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit

CITATION: 443 US 193 (1979)
ARGUED: Mar 28, 1979
DECIDED: Jun 27, 1979

Lawrence G. Wallace - Argued the cause for the United States et al., petitioners in No. 78-436
Michael R. Fontham - Argued the cause for respondent Weber in all cases
Michael H. Gottesman - Argued the cause for the petitioner, Steelworkers Union
Noyes Thompson Powers - for petitioner in No. 78-435

Facts of the case

The United Steelworkers of America and the Kaiser Aluminum and Chemical Corporation implemented an affirmative action-based training program to increase the number of the company's black skilled craft workers. Half of the eligible positions in the training program were reserved for blacks. Weber, who was white, was passed over for the program. Weber claimed that he was the victim of reverse discrimination. These cases (United Steelworkers v. Weber and Kaiser Aluminum v. Weber) were also decided together with United States v. Weber.


Did United and Kaiser Aluminum's training scheme violate Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act prohibiting discrimination on the basis of race?

Media for United Steelworkers of America, AFL-CIO-CLC v. Weber

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - March 28, 1979 in United Steelworkers of America, AFL-CIO-CLC v. Weber

Warren E. Burger:

We'll hear arguments first this morning in Number 78-432, United Steelworkers against Brian Weber and the consolidated cases.

Mr. Powers, you may proceed whenever you're ready.

Noyes Thompson Powers:

Mr. Chief Justice and may it please the Court.

This case is here on writ of certiorari to the Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.

At issue is whether Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 permits an employer and a union to remedy the past exclusion of minorities and women from craft employment by establishing a new craft training program which takes account of race and sex in selecting those to be trained.

Let me begin by stating one central fact, the provisions of the 1974 Kaiser Steelworker Labor Agreement which are being challenged in this case where a remedial measure adopted in response to employment discrimination litigation concerning a lack of minorities and women in craft employment.

Those are not simply my words.

They are contained in the provisions of the labor agreement itself and they appear in paragraph 5 of plaintiff's complaint in this case which is reprinted in the appendix at page 11 and they were admitted not only by the company but by the union in its answer to the complaint which appears in page 17 of the joint appendix.

So the character of the program is not really in dispute.

It was remedial and it sought to do more than remedy or achieve racial balance for society sake.

The program was explicitly focused in response to employment discrimination litigation in which both Kaiser and the steelworkers were then engaged.

To meet the situation, the Kaiser Steelworker Agreement established a new program at 15 company plants under which Kaiser employees who had no prior craft experience could achieve training.

And, as was being done in the steelworks consent decree to which the steelworkers were a party, the agreement provided that 50% of the training opportunities would be allotted to minorities and women.

One of those 15 clients is the Gramercy Louisiana plant which is engaged -- which is the site of this litigation.

It is important to emphasize that the company's desire to assure compliance with its Title VII and Executive Order obligations were not simply involved in the establishment of the 1974 program, they were the reason for it.

If the company had been able to recruit what it regarded as adequate numbers of minorities and women who were already fully trained, then it would have had every reason to continue to take advantage of its ability to recruit fully trained craftsmen and save the substantial cost that training involved.

As it's clear from the record, at the Gramercy plant alone, by agreeing to this training program, the company undertook an obligation that could be expected to cost it $400.00 up to $400,000.00 a year.

Now, this training program provided opportunities not only for blacks and women but for white males who had no prior craft experience.

The respondent Brian Weber was one of those employees who had no prior craft experience.

And when opportunities came to bid in this new craft training program, he bid.

And when he was not selected, he filed a charge under Title VII alleging that he would have been discriminated against because blacks less senior than he had been selected.

The lower courts --

Harry A. Blackmun:

Mr. Powers, I want to be sure.

Kaiser is or is not admitting past discrimination?

Noyes Thompson Powers:

Kaiser does not admit past discrimination.

It does concede that both the substantially low employment of minorities and women in craft jobs at the time and the fact that it had insisted on prior experience as a condition not only for employment as a full craftsman but also for entry to into training programs where factors that a court might have used in finding that there was a prima facie case of discrimination.

Harry A. Blackmun:

Beyond this, Kaiser does not go?

Noyes Thompson Powers:

Kaiser does not concede discrimination under Title VII.

It does not concede that the Executive Order required this action.

It recognize --