Published on August 7th, 2014


William Reed: A Rising Tide Lifts all Boats

A version of the iconic slogan, A Mind is a Terrible Thing to Waste,” is playing out in the court of public opinion and it’s a huge debacle, as a major union severs its ties with the United Negro College Fund (UNCF). Lee Saunders, the president of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, or AFSCME, should receive the 2014 “Foot in Mouth” award for a letter he sent informing Michael Lomax, the chairman of the United Negro College Fund, that the union would be ending its partnership with the educational organization in September. The union is angry about a $25 million donation that UNCF accepted from Charles Koch. The billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch have become targets of Democrats and unions, alike.

Saunders’ letter smacks of politics and lacks Black leadership values for our youth to emulate: “Like many supporters of the UNCF, I was deeply troubled by your decision to accept $25 million from David and Charles Koch,” Saunders wrote. Saunders contends that the UNCF chairman “has taken actions deeply hostile to public employees”… and there’s “a profound betrayal of the ideals of the civil rights movement.” The union intends to end its relationship with UNCF in September.Saunders also described the Koch brothers as the “single most prominent funders of efforts to prevent African Americans from voting.”

If ever there was a case of ideological extremism, this is it. Instead of saying, there’s not much we agree on, but helping Black youth graduate from college is one of them. Let’s unite and do some good. However, in his huff, Saunders sacrificed AFSCME grants that have helped nearly a hundred Black students throughout the course of the AFSCME/UNCF program.

Heads turned when UNCF announced Charles Koch’s no strings attached $25 million donation to historically Black colleges and universities and loan assistance programs. In his nonsensical justification of his taking money away from Black students, Saunders claimed that the Kochs are openly hostile to Black people. “We are doing this as a result of actions taken by the [chairman] of the UNCF that are not only deeply hostile to the rights and dignity of public employees …” Saunders’ letter told Lomax. “I was truly stunned to learn that you attended and spoke at a Koch summit.” Saunders shot hundreds of Black students in the foot because he’s fixated on the premise that “The Koch brothers and the organizations they fund have devoted themselves for more than a decade to attacking the voting rights of African Americans.”

UNCF chairman Michael Lomax, perhaps too pleased with the Kochs’ donation to worry about losing $60,000 from AFSCME, said in a statement: “UNCF has over 100,000 donors with a wide range of views, but all believe in helping young students of color realize their dreams of a college education. For over 70 years we have never had a litmus test and we have asked all Americans to support our cause.”

What Black Americans need is good leadership. AFSCME’s relationship with the UNCF revolved around the AFSCME/UNCF/Harvard LWP Union Scholars Program, in which sophomore- and junior- college students work with AFSCME during the summer and receive scholarship support.That program ends September 1.

It’s time to brand what Saunders has displayed as feckless leadership.” Amid the plight of Blacks in America, it’s sad when a man in a position to lift up race-specific programs suspends them instead. Similar random accusations represent the history of Blacks and unions. Throughout the past century, unions have been on both sides of the racial divide, sometimes fostering discrimination; other times welcoming minorities.

Saunders is the first African-American president of the 1.6 million-member AFSCME. Saunders holds a Master of Arts degree from Ohio State University. We wish him wisdom to think and act in a leadership capacity that advances Blacks’ interests and causes.

Saunders shouldn’t stop AFSCME’s support of UNCF. If he needs a few bucks, he should poll his union partners for some of the $153 million they spend in political contributions.


About the Author: William Reed is the President and Chief Executive Officer of Black Press International. He has been a Media Entrepreneur for over two decades. A long-time Washington insider, Reed’s special strengths include: public and community relations; grass-roots organizing; script and speech writing, legislative affairs tracking and research; and access to a network of national and local government, business and organizational policy-makers and public opinion-molders.

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One Response to An Honest Conservative Analysis of Affirmative Action

  1. Good analysis. It should be noted that Sowell in his ealier days, while skpetical of race quotas, candidly held that affirmative outreach steps in recruitment, promotion etc are reasonable. A company that has long denied its qualified black employees promotion can take such steps as steadily moving up said employees over time without imposing mandatory race quotas where the unqualified move up simply because of their race. He also candidly notes that court remedies to protect or compensate those directly damaged are something long enjoyed by white workers. There nothing new, but have been around since the 1930s for whites. But the standard propaganda narrative skips over this history and in high dudgeon denounces reputed “special treatment” allegedly “given” to blacks. Why aren’t the remedies above a bad thing when benefiting white unionists, but become a “problem” only when a black man shows up wanting a piece of the action? Quote per Sowell:

    “The general principle behind “affirmative action” is that a court order to “cease and desist” from some discriminatory practice may not be sufficient to undo the harm already done, or even to prevent additional harm as the result of a pattern of events set in motion by the prior illegal activity. This general principle goes back much further than the civil-rights legislation of the 1960’s, and extends well beyond questions involving ethnic minorities or women. In 1935, the Wagner Act prescribed “affirmative action” as well as “cease and desist” remedies against employers whose anti-union activities had violated the law. Thus, in the landmark Jones and Laughlin Steel case which established the constitutionality of the Act, the National Labor Relations Board ordered the company not only to stop discriminating against those of its employees who were union members, but also to post notices to that effect in conspicuous places and to reinstate unlawfully discharged workers, with back pay. Had the company merely been ordered to “cease and desist” from economic (and physical) retaliation against union members,the future effect of its past intimidation would have continued to inhibit the free-choice elections guaranteed by the National Labor Relations Act.

    Racial discrimination is another obvious area where merely to “cease and desist” is not enough. If a firm has engaged in racial discrimination for years, and has an all-white work force as a result, then simply to stop explicit discrimination will mean little as long as the firm continues to hire by word-of-mouth referrals to its current employees’ friends and relatives. (Many firms hire in just this way, regardless of their racial policies.) Clearly, the area of racial discrimination is one in which positive or affirmative steps of some kind seem reasonable-which is not to say that the particular policies actually followed make sense.”
    -Sowell, Thomas (1975) Affirmative Action Reconsidered. The Public Interest 3, pg 48-65

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