|TABLE OF CONTENTS|
President John F. Kennedy
Fifth Constitutional Convention
New York City
November 15, 1963
Jenkins was appointed to the National Labor
Relations Board (NLRB) in 1963 by the Democratic President Kennedy
despite his life-long affiliation with the Republican party. His
appointment coincided with the landmark civil rights legislation
proposed by President John F. Kennedy, which was supported by civil
rights organizations and their historic march on Washington, D.C., in
1963. The day after the
historic march, Howard Jenkins, Jr., was sworn in as a member of the
Out of respect for Dr. Martin Luther King and the civil rights march on Washington, Jenkins postponed his swearing-in ceremony until August 29, 1963. During his acceptance speech, Jenkins said, “I know that it has not escaped your attention that I am a Negro. I am conscious of the inter-relationship between the problems of the Negro in the work force and the myriad of problems of our industrial economy.” He confirmed that much of what was said and done in the past is equally relevant in the present.
in his tenure at the NLRB, Jenkins left no doubt that his voice would be
remembered as one of those brave individuals who spoke out unflinchingly
for the equality of all Americans.
Shortly after his appointment to the Board, Jenkins addressed the
Urban League of Kansas City. He
described the plight of African American workers during that time:
I hold the conviction that no lasting solution is to be found in the many faceted racial problem in the United States unless provision is made for rescuing the masses of Negroes from economic oblivion to which they are otherwise consigned in this age of automation.
Hughes Tool Company
147 NLRB 1572
appointment to the NLRB in 1963 meant that he would have the opportunity
to broaden the activities of trade unions generally. His experience under the Landrum-Griffin Act, however, taught
him to recognize that not all trade unions were accepting of the
principles of equality and opportunity – two central themes in
Jenkins’s legal work. Jenkins
looked to the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) and the NLRB as
vehicles through which change could be accomplished.
all else, Jenkins firmly believed in the power of the individual, using
the law, to change history. He
was keenly aware of the effects of racism in unions and therefore felt
the role of the Board in encouraging collective bargaining between the
employees (particularly minorities) and primarily white employers would
provide “many opportunities to strike a blow for freedom.”
commitment to both individual civil rights and the rights of labor
unions often led to a tension in his work.
He expressed it once as the “tension between collective action
and the rights of the individual vis-ŕ-vis that collectivity.”
It often became a question of where the group rights ended and
individual rights began. Throughout
his years on the NLRB, Jenkins strove to encourage labor unions and
labor policy while preserving and promoting individual civil rights and
was later re-appointed to the Board by Presidents Lyndon Johnson (1968),
Richard M. Nixon (1973), and Jimmy Carter (1978).
1965 - UAW members on picket line during strike against Kohler Co.
Howard Jenkins, Jr.
President Lyndon Johnson
As the 1960’s
were drawing to a close, America was being torn apart by race riots.
In 1967, President Johnson created an 11-member National Advisory
Commission on Civil Disorder to investigate racial unrest and to
recommend remedial action. Jenkins,
unwilling to solely address the increasing racial problems through his
role as a Board Member, used speaking engagements across the country to
speak out about the causes for African Americans’ unrest.
In an August 1967 address to the Urban League of the Pikes Peak
Region he noted:
within the power of American industry to create the jobs so sorely
needed. It lies within the
power of American trade unions to see that every assistance is given to
the placement of Negro Americans in the industrial work force.
also issued an appeal:
Negro men in these cities go to work, let them feel the dignity of being
productive, let them assume their rightful places as family supporter
and family head, let them raise up sons who look not to a welfare worker
or the postman with a relief check, but to their father who supports
them with his adequate earnings.
early 1968, vicious racial intolerance manifested itself in the
assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., on April 4.
With Dr. King’s death and the issuance of the Kerner
Commission’s report, Jenkins returned to Denver to deliver a very
sober analysis of the American legal system and its impact on African
Americans. In his address
to the alumni of his alma mater on June 6, 1968, Jenkins stated:
endemic problems fester and eventually erupt with critical consequences.
Many Americans profess not to understand the basis for the
increasing distrust of the legal process as a method for solving the
social ills that beset our Nation.
They seem not to comprehend the deep-seated sense of frustration
seething in the breasts of young black men and women whose children are
attending the same public schools, getting the same inadequate education
that they received, and they recall that their parents assured them that
those conditions would be corrected while they were still children.
Now they are grown and the gap between promise and practice has
grown wider, and victims of the system need no committees of experts to
define their problem.
Table of Contents
|Previous Chapter||Next Chapter|
Howard Jenkins, Jr.
Copyright © 2002
University of Denver
All rights reserved.