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CA: The business community and governor respond to Supreme Court decision on affirmative action

California business community reassures the public of DEI measures to support businesses and employees

By ONME Newswire

SACRAMENTO—Governor Gavin Newsom and the united business community last week issued a response to the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that overturned affirmative action practices for college and university admissions.

The Supreme Court struck down race-based admissions practices at public and private universities and colleges, ending the 50-year debate regarding race playing a role in higher education admissions.

Affirmative action policies aim to increase the representation of women and people of color. In the workforce, this can mean policies designed to promote hiring underrepresented groups. In college admissions, it meant extra consideration for underrepresented students.

Supreme Court justices ruled that the admissions policies at the University of North Carolina, one of the country's oldest public universities, and Harvard University, the country's oldest private university, violated the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment.

“The Supreme Court’s conservative majority has yet again upended longstanding precedent, changing the law just because they now have the votes to do so," said Governor Newsom, "without any care for the costs to society and students around the country."

"Right-wing activists — including those donning robes — are trying to take us back to the era of book bans and segregated campuses. As Justices Sotomayor and Jackson put it powerfully, no one benefits from ignorance: diverse schools are an essential component of the fabric of our democratic society. While the path to equal opportunity has now been narrowed for millions of students, no court case will ever shatter the California Dream. Our campus doors remain open for all who want to work hard — and our commitment to diversity, equity, and equal opportunity has never been stronger,” said Gov. Newsom.

Article Affirmative action law grew out of the civil rights movement. The phrase first appeared in 1961, when President John F. Kennedy created the Committee on Equal Employment Opportunity. A Black lawyer named Hobart Taylor Jr. wrote the phrase in the margins of a draft of Kennedy's executive order.

In 1976, white students made up over 80% of all U.S. college students. By 2016, that number had dropped to 57%


“It is the policy of the Government of the United States to … promote the full realization of equal employment opportunity through a continuing affirmative program in each executive department and agency.”


According to article, "A History of Affirmative Action in College Admissions" by Genevieve Carlton, Ph.D., affirmative action has been a rocky road in the court systems for decades; it initially encouraged employers to hire marginalized people. Presidents Lyndon B. Johnson and Richard Nixon both passed executive orders to end race discrimination in hiring.

Dr. Carlton explained that Johnson's 1966 order told contractors to "take affirmative action to ensure that applicants are employed, and that employees are treated during employment, without regard to their race, color, religion, sex, or national origin." Later, Nixon's 1969 order promised affirmative action in government employment.

By 1969, due to the Civil Rights Movement, many colleges and universities began to adopt the same policies as the workplaces--this would help integrate higher education.

Over 25 years later, ironically in California in 1996, voters approved Proposition 209, which banned affirmative action at public colleges and universities ever since.

Dr. Carlton explained that since 1998, when the amendment went into effect, the number of Latino/a and Black students "has not kept pace with the diversity of students in California K-12 schools or with the overall California population," according to the UC Board of Regents, (A 2013 study reported a 23% drop in students of color at top public colleges following an affirmative action ban.) Ten other states have kept in step with California, banning affirmative action on college campuses, most by voter approval.


“A 2016 Gallup poll revealed that 60% of Americans support affirmative action as a whole — but 70% don't believe race should be a factor in college admissions.”


In the workplace, The US has long seen a large racial income gap, with a nearly $20,000 difference in annual income between Black and white households, according to The Guardian. Many factors go into this, including pay disparity, but part of the issue is that Black Americans are severely underrepresented in high-paying jobs. A 2018 analysis by the Associated Press found that in the legal field, the ratio of white workers to Black workers was seven to one. In management, the ratio was 10 to one.

Private companies that are contracted by the federal government and some state governments are required by law to have affirmative action in place. The law asks companies to ensure the gender and racial demographics of their company match the makeup of available workers in that industry.

A signed joint statement from the business community throughout California confirmed that diversity will state remain a priority in the workplace, (see signatures below.)

“The statewide business community remains steadfast in our commitment to creating job opportunities and improving the diversity of our businesses across all sectors. California thrives because of the diversity in our population, the diversity of our workforce, and the diversity of our economy. While today's ruling may seem narrow, only affecting the education sector, we are concerned that it could threaten the business community’s commitment to diversity and inclusion initiatives by creating future barriers in building a diverse and qualified workforce, especially for C-suite and executive level positions.

“As part of our ongoing commitment, we will work to educate employers about the Supreme Court’s decision and how we can ensure that our employees and their families continue to know they are an integral part of our businesses and our communities.”

The joint statement was signed by:

  • Rob Lapsley, President, California Business Roundtable

  • Lynn Mohrfeld, President and CEO, California Hotel and Lodging Association

  • Lance Hastings, President and CEO, California Manufacturers & Technology Association

  • Dan Dunmoyer, President and CEO, California Building Industry Association

  • Jot Condie, President and CEO, California Restaurant Association

  • Hon. Mike Roos, President and CEO, Southern California Leadership Council

  • Jim Wunderman, President and CEO, Bay Area Council

  • Maria Salinas, President and CEO, Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce

  • Paul Granillo, President and CEO, Inland Empire Economic Partnership

  • Tracy Hernandez, Founding CEO, Los Angeles County Business Federation (BizFed)

The collective business community in California wanted to ensure the public of the following:

  1. The Supreme Court's ruling has no impact on existing or future hiring practices and does not affect existing or future DEI initiatives.

  2. Businesses rely on strong and diverse colleges and universities to attract qualified workers into the workforce. Rulings like this that affect the education system affect the workforce as well.

  3. California businesses look forward to continuing to partner with our world-class colleges and universities to ensure today’s decision does not impact the commitment and progress we have collectively made.


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