This Date in History: Affirmative action

Monday, March 5, 2018

[Originally Published in Synapse - The UCSF student newspaper, March 9, 1978] UCSF is one of the largest employers in San Francisco. With over 8,000 employees, its stance on affirmative action can have a big effect on the position of minorities in the city.

To meet its legal obligations as a federal contractor, this campus did establish an affirmative action program in 1973. Yet from 1973 to 1976, the percentage of minorities employed at UCSF steadily dropped. Why?

Goals of the program

The August 1977 report issued by the Affirmative Action Office here explains how the goals are adopted. It divides non-academic jobs into 25 sub-categories such as “laborers,” “food service workers,” “health practitioners” and so on. (Academic jobs are a separate category.)

To figure out what percentage of minorities it should hire in a subcategory, UC looks at state or Bay Area census data on occupations.

That is, it looks at how many minorities are already in those jobs. And that is the percentage of minorities that are considered “available” to be hired. That figure, therefore, becomes UCSF's goal.

Take “cleaning service workers'' and “laborers” — two kinds of jobs that minorities have traditionally held in disproportionate numbers. UCSF's target is to hire minorities as 51.2 percent of its cleaning service workers, and 38.7 percent of its laborers. Compare that to professional jobs.

For “health practitioners” the target is 17.8 percent minorities. And for black people the situation looks even worse. UCSF's goal is that 2.1 percent of the health practitioners it hires will be black, and 3.5 percent of its professionals in sciences will be black.

The data used to decide “availability” (and therefore goals) are 1970 census data. Advances that minorities have made in the last eight years in job training and education do not affect UCSF's goals.

Not until after the 1980 census figures are published, perhaps around 1982, will new data be used and new goals adopted. Minorities have for a long time been stuck with the menial work — the cooking, cleaning and manual labor that are essential but are usually low-paid and taken for granted.

More often than whites, they also have to take inconvenient shifts, such as a 6:30 am or 7:00 am shift, or a 5:30 pm to 2 am shift — despite the disruption to family and personal life.

UCSF's goals do not eliminate this division of labor. They are designed only to make UC no more discriminatory than anybody else.

Changing workforce

The composition of the work force at the Mcd Center has been changing in a way that hurts minorities. Academic and professional jobs have increased by leaps and bounds, while career jobs for laborers and service workers have actually dropped.

Technological changes and speed-up have brought a decline in jobs in places like Central Supply, the Laundry and other jobs held mostly by minorities.

The result is that the percentage of minorities in the whole work force at UCSF has actually dropped, from 34.8 percent in 1973 to 33.7 percent in 1976.

The 1976 figure is too high, since it counts some whites born in the United States who listed themselves as “Native American” and were thus counted as American Indians.

Minorities dropped as a percentage of academic employees and casual (temporary or less than 50% time) employees, while as a percentage of career employees they stayed almost the same.

Dividing workers

The statistics also show how the system can divide workers against one another.

While the percentage of career staff who are minorities has stayed almost even, the percentage (within that) of career staff who are black has dropped steadily, from 23.5 percent in 1973 to 20.4 percent in 1976.

Management at UCSF, instead of hiring a larger percentage of minority workers, has more often just substituted other minority workers for black workers.

Results of program

What are the results? Has there been any change at all in the distribution of jobs — the division of labor?

The percentage of minorities in professional and clerical jobs has increased, and the percentage of service workers has dropped. Some movement actually has taken place.

But 86 percent of the service workers are still minorities, while only 24 percent of the professionals are minorities. And in certain job categories, progress in affirmative action has been very slow.

Nursing services, for instance, lags far behind its goals. At UCSF, a total of just over 700 employees are professionals in nursing services. UCSF's target is to hire about 200 of these as minorities. Yet in 1975, only 103 minorities here held these jobs — and one year later it was only 112, according to the UCSF Affirmative Action report.

In Dietary, management recently created a new set of jobs at a classification that would be a step up for those who now serve meals to patients on the floors. But they also announced at first that only those with a college education could qualify for the training classes for the new job — because, they said, only such people would be able to learn in a classroom situation.

Minority women with years of experience — but who had never had a chance to go to college — would have been excluded. This policy was challenged by AFSCME 1650, a campus union, and is presently under reconsideration.

UCSF has also created a career development program that mainly trains supervisors and has little real relationship to promotion or reclassification.