The issue of discrimination has pervaded many aspects of social life. Women, minorities, and unwanted individuals usually suffered from either institutional or bigot discrimination. Because discrimination rests on the twin principles of racial superiority (or its equivalent, the so-called ‘white man’s burden’) and conservatism, it usually transcends beyond what is perceived and indicated. Discrimination, therefore, is sometimes not evident and consequential. Discrimination is the direct manifestation of behavior and psychological outlook of individuals, groups, and even institutions.
Thus, discrimination can virtually be found in all aspects of social life – in the family, in the workplace, and in government – so long as the society in general promotes discrimination both on the individual and institutional levels. Case Summary In 1998, the Kaiser Aluminum and Chemical Corporation and the United Steelworkers of America engaged in bargaining which led to prolonged and almost intractable labor dispute. On September 18, 2000, the two-year strike ended, after a binding arbitration.
About 3000 workers were involved in the strike. Five plants were affected. The major issues which lead to the dispute are as follows: 1) the company decided to allow budgetary cuts in bargaining unit jobs; 2) there was substantial elimination of supplemental and local agreements; and 3) there was a proposal which reserved 50% of the available jobs in the company to African-Americans. Kaiser argued that it needed to institute several productivity improvements because it was a medium-sized aluminum producer facing tight competitive issues.
However what enraged the union is the proposal which reserved 50% of the available jobs in the company to minorities, especially African-Americans. The proposal was generally beneficial to the company because it could theoretically replace union-affiliated employees with employees of minority background. The union saw the move as a general alibi for budgetary cuts in bargaining job units. The Ethical Issue From a moral point of view, the proposal is justified. The proposal not only dispenses distributive justice (this is justice based on opportunity) but also allows affirmative action on the part of the employees.
It can therefore be argued that the proposal is an extension of the equal opportunity clause of economic liberalism. By reserving 50% of available jobs to African-Americans, the proposal is essentially increasing the marginal opportunity of such group with respect to other groups. The counterargument which states that ‘the proposal induces discrimination on the part of whites (reverse discrimination)’ is wholly inaccurate. The proposal only decreases the opportunities available to whites; it does not impinge on the right of the whites to equal employment.
Perhaps, it may be helpful to employ a historical point of view in analyzing the validity and soundness of the counter argument. For almost three centuries, the minorities (especially the African-Americans) suffered from economic inequities. Many of them were underemployed, underpaid, and to some extent overworked. It may be argued that the proposal is a good-to-fit move to decrease such economic marginality. It may be viewed as a move in improving both economic (opportunities) and social justice (overall standing in society).
Deontological Point of View From a Kantian point of view, the proposal has moral universal standing. A proposal which dispenses distributive justice is a general universal ethos. Categorically speaking, the proposal does not in any way put groups into the same categorical ethos. Rather, the proposal is a general tool for evaluating justice of any type – it promotes justice which ought to be directed to particularities – groups, individuals, and institutions. Hence, from Kant’s view, the proposal is simply a manifestation of a universal value.