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AFSCME’s Saunders blasts Supreme Court after majority rejects affirmative action

Photo: Anna Moneymaker/ Getty Images
AFSCME’s Saunders blasts Supreme Court after majority rejects affirmative action
By AFSCME Staff ·
AFSCME’s Saunders blasts Supreme Court after majority rejects affirmative action
Supporters of affirmative action protest near the U.S. Supreme Court Building on Capitol Hill on June 29, 2023 in Washington, DC. Photo: Anna Moneymaker/ Getty Images

AFSCME President Lee Saunders called the United States Supreme Court’s rejection of affirmative action in higher education “a shameful step backwards in our nation’s history.”

“Once again, the anti-worker majority on the Supreme Court has chosen to advance the agenda of those who seek to take away our freedoms,” Saunders said in a statement Thursday. “We live in a system of deeply entrenched systemic inequalities where Black and Brown people continue to face discrimination due to the color of their skin. If we are to truly level the playing field for people of color, we cannot pretend to be ‘colorblind.’ Today is a shameful step backwards in our nation’s history, and a reminder that we must continue to organize for our freedoms.”

Ruling in a case involving the private Harvard University and the public University of North Carolina, the Supreme Court said on Thursday that the admissions programs at both institutions “cannot be reconciled with the guarantees of the Equal Protection Clause” and are therefore unconstitutional. The 6-3 decision, which effectively overturns 50 years of precedent, means that universities may no longer seek to diversify their student bodies by favoring applicants taking their race into account.

For decades in our country, affirmative action policies have sought to counteract the effects of racial discrimination by considering race in creating more diverse college and university campuses and workplaces. They continue to matter because racial discrimination continues to exist in our society. Yet, as many have pointed out, the court’s ruling is likely to harm university applicants who are Black, Hispanic and Native American.

“In a society where race continues to matter, there is no constitutional requirement that institutions attempting to remedy their legacies of racial exclusion must operate with a blindfold,” Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote in the minority’s dissent. “Today, this Court overrules decades of precedent and imposes a superficial rule of race blindness on the Nation. The devastating impact of this decision cannot be overstated.”

AFSCME has a long history of supporting affirmative action policies. To take but one example, AFSCME members at our union’s 40th International Convention in 2012 voted to approve a resolution in favor of affirmative action that reads, in part: “AFSCME remains committed to affirmative action, diversity and full participation within the union and society in general. AFSCME pledges to support and defend affirmative action and basic civil rights protections.”

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