Tackling Workplace Segregation Through Collective Bargaining

By Dorian Warren |

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More than 50 years since passage of the landmark 1964 Civil Rights Act, the little progress we have made as a country in ending job segregation by race and gender has stalled. As women and people of color make up a growing majority of America’s workforce, we must find new and innovative solutions to ending workplace segregation and promoting equal opportunity for all. This case study of UNITE-HERE’s work in the hotel industry demonstrates one effective solution in light of the inadequacy of the Civil Rights Act: collective bargaining.

We identify direct ways in which UNITE-HERE, through the collective bargaining process, influenced the racial and ethnic division of labor beyond network recruitment among individual members. We show how outside of apprenticeship programs, unions may directly influence racial, ethnic, and gender representation by legislating hiring practices through specific contract language, such as mandating diversity commitments from employers, implementing stronger nondiscrimination practices, and requiring direct outreach to underrepresented applicants.

Dorian T. Warren is a Fellow at the Roosevelt Institute, an MSNBC Contributor, and Board Chair of the Center for Community Change. He is the Host and Executive Producer of “Nerding Out” on MSNBC’s digital platform, shift.msnbc.com.