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Retirement and the Legacy (1983-2003)

During his first term on the National Labor Relations Board, beginning in 1963, Jenkins frequently found himself leading the way in important cases and influencing national labor law. He wrote the majority opinion in the landmark Hughes Tool (Independent Metal Workers Union, Local No. 1), 147 NLRB 1572 (1964). In that opinion, he stated, “Specifically, we hold that the NLRB cannot validly render aid under Section 9 of the Act to a labor organization which discriminates racially when acting as statutory bargaining representative.” It was a watershed case for African American workers, long discriminated against even within the supposedly protective umbrella of the labor union.

Later, conflicts arose between the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Miranda Fuel decision of 1962 regarding what should come before the NLRB. Local Union No. 12, United Rubber Workers of America, 150 NLRB 312 (1964), involved a company that permitted three separate seniority rolls – Caucasian male, African American male, and female. There were also racially separate facilities. The Fifth Circuit held that Section 8 of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) “was not restricted to discrimination which encourages or discourages union membership. The court also held that the Civil Rights Act did not intend to limit the jurisdiction of the NLRB.

Jenkins was appointed to his second five-year term on the NLRB in July 1968 by President Lyndon Johnson. He was sworn into his second term by Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall. During his swearing-in ceremony, Jenkins re-affirmed his commitment to addressing racial issues in the collective activity of labor unions, “The spirit of divisiveness is also evident in the field of industrial relations. Lines are being drawn and separatism seems on the rise not only as between organized labor and organized management, but also within the ranks of each.”

On August 27, 1983, Howard Jenkins, Jr., ended his tenure on the National Labor Relations Board. He had dedicated 20 years of his life as a member of the Board. His record during those years illustrates that he believed that labor rights should be equally protected for all by the NLRB. In his letter of resignation to President Ronald Reagan, Jenkins stated:
In my four terms spanning twenty years on the Board, under appointments by both Republican and Democratic presidents, it has been a pleasure to have helped formulate many important principles and decisions which have, with court approval, become a major part of our national policy. Among these, and one in which I took the lead, is the now well-accepted principle that race and sex discrimination are unfair labor practices prohibited by the National Labor Relations Act.

After leaving the board, Jenkins worked as a labor law consultant and assisted his wife, Alice, with One America, her consulting business. They eventually retired to Kensington, Maryland, and he later moved to an assisted-living facility in Silver Spring. Howard Jenkins, Jr. died on June 3, 2003, at the age of 87, and was survived by a son and two grandchildren. His wife, eldest son and daughter preceded him.