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United Steelworkers of America, AFL-CIO v. Weber (1979)

March 28, 1979, Argued

June 27, 1979, Decided *

* Together with No. 78-435, Kaiser Aluminum & Chemical Corp. v. Weber et al., and No. 78-436, United States et al. v. Weber et al., also on certiorari to the same court.

MR. JUSTICE BRENNAN delivered the opinion of the Court.

[1A]Challenged here is the legality of an affirmative action plan -- collectively bargained by an employer and a union -- that reserves for black employees 50% of the openings in an in-plant craft-training program until the percentage of black craftworkers in the plant is commensurate with the percentage of blacks in the local labor force. The question for decision is whether Congress, in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 78 Stat. 253, as amended, 42 U. S. C. § 2000e et seq., left employers and unions in the private sector free to take such race-conscious steps to eliminate manifest racial imbalances in traditionally segregated job categories. We hold that Title VII does not prohibit such race-conscious affirmative action plans.

I

In 1974, petitioner United Steelworkers of America (USWA) and petitioner Kaiser Aluminum & Chemical Corp. (Kaiser) entered into a master collective-bargaining agreement covering terms and conditions of employment at 15 Kaiser plants. The agreement contained, inter alia, an affirmative action plan designed to eliminate conspicuous racial imbalances in Kaiser"s then almost exclusively white craftwork forces. Black craft-hiring goals were set for each Kaiser plant equal to the percentage of blacks in the respective local labor forces. To enable plants to meet these goals, on-the-job training programs were established to teach unskilled production workers -- black and white -- the skills necessary to become craftworkers. The plan reserved for black employees 50% of the openings in these newly created in-plant training programs.

[2A]This case arose from the operation of the plan at Kaiser"s plant in Gramercy, La. Until 1974, Kaiser hired as craftworkers for that plant only persons who had had prior craft

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