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USWA Hails Supreme Court Decisions as
“A Victory for Civil Rights and Social Justice”

June 23, 2003

PITTSBURGH - Leo W. Gerard, president of the United Steelworkers of America, praised a U.S. Supreme Court decision announced today which reaffirms the use of race-based affirmative action in higher education admissions.

"Today's decision is a victory for civil rights and social justice," Gerard said of the court's 5-4 decision to uphold the University of Michigan Law School's affirmative action program. "This decision will promote equality throughout the United States of America, and it leaves the door open for millions of disadvantaged Americans to attain the American dream."

While the Supreme Court rejected Michigan's undergraduate admissions' policy in a separate 6-3 decision today, the 5-4 decision on the Law School's admissions program rejects the position of conservatives that race should never be used as a factor in higher education admissions. The 5-4 decision upholds the view of Justice Powell in the 1978 Bakke decision where Powell argued that race can be used as one of many factors in the admissions process.

A majority of the court wrote today that, "The Court endorses Justice Powell's view that student body diversity is a compelling state interest that can justify using race in university admissions."

"The court's decision to uphold the principle of affirmative action is a victory for both students and workers," said Leon Lynch, USWA Vice President of Human Affairs.. "We must recognize that discrimination still exists in America, and that affirmative action is a critically important measure to level the playing field in higher education and the workplace."

Although the Bush Administration opposed the University of Michigan's admissions' policies, both the labor movement and the vast majority of corporate America defended the university's race-conscious admissions' policy. In addition to using race as a factor in the admissions process,

Michigan uses many other factors, including Grade Point Average, standardized test scores, geography, personal essays, socioeconomic factors, and parental legacy.

"It was only 49 years ago that the Supreme Court ruled in Brown v. Board of Education that 'separate but equal' was unconstitutional, requiring the forced integration of Southern schools and public services," said Gerard.

"We are still experiencing the effects of the Apartheid that existed in America in the 1950s," said Maxine Carter, Assistant to the President and head of the USWA's Civil Rights Department, "and today's decision reaffirms that America will not turn its back on those whom it denied full rights as citizens for almost 200 years."

Contacts: Peter Romer-Friedman (202) 778-4384 or
Paul Whitehead (412) 562-2549

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