Franklin D. Roosevelt, Jr.: "The First Year"On May 11, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Jr. handed his resignation as chairman of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to President Johnson and announced the next day as a candidate for the Democratic nomination for governor of New York. Stepping down from the helm after guiding the Commission in its first 10 months, Mr. Roosevelt expressed his impressions in the following statement:
I am proud of the progress that has been made by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in its first year.
We have helped to bring about new employment attitudes and practices in many areas throughout the South in retail and department stores and taxicab companies, in famous New Orleans restaurants and in public service establishments-and in major industry after industry in all sections of the U.S.
The Newport News Shipbuilding Company settlement is probably the most comprehensive and far reaching solution ever achieved in a job discrimination case. Thousands of Negro employees were brought up to the starting line-for promotion and for pay-to remedy past discrimination in the country's largest shipyard.
In Bogalusa, a strife-torn, Klanridden community, the principle of horizontal merging of segregated lines of promotion was established by the Commission, the Crown-Zellerback Paper Company and International Paperworkers and Papermakers Union. We sat down for three hours at a table and hammered it out. We not only settled a stubborn seniority problem; we improved the race relations climate in the community.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 did not create new responsibilities for the major employers in the nation, except, perhaps, in respect to sex discrimination. These employers have been subject to fair employment practice laws for years in many states. If they were Government contractors, they were committed to avoid discrimination and, indeed, to engage in affirmative action to provide equal opportunity in employment.
But Title VII was the first congressional declaration in the employment field. It followed a long and dramatic Civil Rights struggle that overcame fire hoses, police dogs and an 83-day filibuster. Thus, it assumed an importance beyond the letter of its modest law.
Those who designed the Commission budget estimated that we would receive 2000 complaints in our first year. We stand today, six weeks away from our first year in business and already, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has been deluged with more than 7000 complaints.
This is striking testimony to the confidence minority persons have in this Commission. Title VII is an article of faith throughout the land, a bright light toward which the disadvantaged in every walk of our life have turned.
The Commission has conciliated 70 charges brought against 28 respondents and 30 more are nearing solution. In most of the 25 charges against eight respondents where we must say that our efforts were "unsuccessful" because every count was not resolved or signed agreement was not accomplished correction of many of the issues was nevertheless achieved.
In all 14 court cases which have been filed by charging parties to protect their rights to file, none has been brought to trial as we continue conciliation efforts.
For all sorts of reasons, major segments of business, industry and labor have shown they are anxious to comply with the new law and the national policy it propounds a fair chance for all at a job or a promotion, regardless of race, color, religion, sex or national origin. Business and labor are concerned about public image, but more than that, they are responding to the law because it is right and because there is in this country a basic reservoir of good will based upon that rightness. For those segments which persist in discriminating, we have asked for new laws with more powers. Happily, the House has already passed the Hawkins bill which I advocate, and the President has asked the Senate to follow suit.
Discrimination in employment practices, of course, has not been wiped out by the Commission and Title VII. In many places discrimination is still deeply rooted in habit and custom. But the gates to opportunity have been opened by this new law and the momentum of positive accomplishment will keep Americans moving through theses gates more and more and more as this Commission and this Administration continue to pursue their convictions with dedication and resolve.