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155 19 Addressing the 1968 Civil Rights Act Among the many significant problems the company faced after I became president (in what seemed to be a never-ending series of controversies) was the requirement of completing and filing the federal reporting of each employee based on gender and ethnicity. In 1969, I personally completed the initial filing of the form of the 1968 Civil Rights Act, realizing that our workforce was nowhere near the so-called “quota” when it came to racial balance according to federal guidelines for minorities, especially African American employees. I concluded that we might be in deep trouble with the federal government, especially since we held many contracts with federal, state, and local governmental agencies. Nonetheless, I filled out various categories in the following manner, based upon the standard form submitted for completion . In the questionnaire, we were asked for our total number of employees. Then the survey asked that our employees be broken down into the following categories: Female, Hispanic, African American, Asian, American Indian, Others. As I recall, I responded in the following manner: Female 17 Hispanic 72 African American 8 Asian 0 American Indian 2 Others 324 TOTAL EMPLOYEES 423 I signed the document early in 1969 and mailed it to the appro­ priate governmental office. In September, I received a call from Jonathan Anderson, representing the federal government’s Office of Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO), to schedule a meeting with him to review the document that I had signed and verify the information provided. Mr. Anderson showed up promptly at my office at ten in the 156 Addressing the 1968 Civil Rights Act morning as scheduled. He was obviously a well-educated and elo­ quent black gentleman, about forty-five years of age. After the formalities and introduction, he brought up my signed document and proceeded to ask questions to clarify what I had recorded. He went through each category that I had listed. I explained that all female employees worked in administration because of the physical demands of collecting garbage. To my surprise, Ander­ son did not ask about the fact that we only had eight African Americans . He was more interested in what the “others” were. I didn’t blink an eye. “Italians.” He seemed somewhat uncomfortable—maybe even embarrassed . I actually saw him blush somewhat when he responded, “Well, Mr. Stefanelli, according to the 1968 EEO guidelines defining minorities, Italians are not considered minorities as compared to Mexican Americans, African Americans, Asians, et cetera.” I responded, “When this company was created, it was the result of gross discrimination against Italians. They could not get jobs at the turn of the century because Irish and other Englishspeaking immigrants were given all labor-orientated jobs within the city. The Italians had no place to go to earn a living but to pick up garbage.” I added, “For that matter, just the other day some irate customer called me a dirty wop—and if that’s not discrimination , then I don’t know what being a minority is.” Try as I may, my argument did not go far. But as a result, I developed a respectful working relationship with the inspector over the years. He knew that the company was nowhere near the standards set forth by the EEO, but he also recognized and respected the long Italian history of the company and, at the same time, acknowledged that we were making sincere efforts to mitigate that problem of having limited minorities employed by the company. As hard as it was for me to believe, Mr. Anderson gave Sunset Scavenger Company a clean bill of health, indicating that we were conforming to the federal EEO guidelines, even though we clearly weren’t at the time. I guess my honest and straightforward response made sense, but he also solicited an unofficial commitment from me to do better at hiring more black employees without discriminating against current employees—a promise that I would keep. 157 Addressing the 1968 Civil Rights Act I shared with Anderson conversations that I’d had with the black leaders in the community over this specific issue of hiring blacks to work in the garbage industry. The fact was that good workers from the black community did not want “to haul trash.” I showed Mr. Anderson where we tried on many occasions to hire kids from Hunters Point to work with the regular scavengers. They refused the offer. I later realized, though, that the company did discriminate , and this became...


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MARC Record
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