NAACP Challenges Administration Attack on Quotas
WASHINGTON (AP) _ The NAACP moved Wednesday to block the Reagan administration in its drive to rid court-ordered affirmative action programs of race and sex-based numerical hiring and promotion quotas.
In a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court, the NAACP, the nation’s oldest and largest civil rights organization, and three individuals charged that the Justice Department’s actions are unconstitutional as well as in violation of administrative procedures.
They asked the court to issue a restraining order preventing the Justice Department from pursuing its campaign to have states, counties and cities reopen and re-examine court-approved consent decrees containing goals and timetables.
The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People said the department, under the direction of Attorney General Edwin Meese III, proposes in 50 localities ″to open old wounds, to revive racial antagonisms and antagonisms based on sex differences ....″
The civil rights organization also said the department wants ″to disturb the acquiescence of the community in the new systems established after much travail and effort under the consent decrees.″
″There are genuine and deep, and sometimes bitter, issues which divide our troubled communities,″ the complaint said. ″We do not need another divisive issue, based on the Department of Justice’s misperception of its power.″
Joining the NAACP in the suit were Samuel Campbell, Robert Sumler and George Avalos, who are eligible for promotion in fire or police departments as a result of court-approved consent decrees.
The Justice Department maintains that the Supreme Court in a Tennessee firefighters case last year held that Memphis officials violated the constitutional rights of employees covered by a seniority system to protect blacks from layoffs.
William Bradford Reynolds, head of the Justice Department’s civil rights division, said the high court ruling dealt with layoffs but also concluded that preferential treatment in hiring and promotion violates Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
He sent letters to officials in charge of administering some 50 state and local government affirmative action programs, asking them to join his department in asking federal courts to strike down mandatory quotas from those programs.
The administration received resistance to the proposal as officials of major cities, including Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami, Philadelphia and San Francisco, said such programs are working well and should be left alone.
In its suit, the NAACP said the administration’s proposed modification of the consent decrees ″would alter the previous meaning and interpretation of such decree, and thereby deprive the individual beneficiaries of those provisions of rights and interests based thereon, and generally restrict the scope of affirmative action.″