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In employment, blacklisting refers to denying people employment for either political reasons (due to actual or suspected political affiliation), due to a history of trade union activity, or due to a history of whistleblowing, for example on safety or corruption issues. Blacklisting may be done by states (denying employment in state entities) as well as by private companies.
In American history, one of the most famous examples of blacklisting stemmed from an investigation launched in 1947 by the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) into Communist influence on the motion picture industry. The first in the industry to be blacklisted, as a result of their refusal to provide evidence to HUAC, were a group known as the Hollywood Ten, most of them screenwriters, who had at one time or another been members of the American Communist Party. Today, the best known of the Hollywood Ten are the writers Ring Lardner, Jr. and Dalton Trumbo, who was barred from openly working in Hollywood for over a dozen years as a result of his defiance of HUAC. (He continued to work under pseudonyms and "fronts" until the revelation in 1960 that he had written the script for Spartacus.) Actor John Garfield was one of the more famous Hollywood performers to have been blacklisted by major American film studios as a direct result of HUAC investigations and hearings.
Blacklisting sometimes consisted of guilt by association, as in the case of radio actress Madeline Lee. Both Lee and her husband, actor Jack Gilford, were blacklisted after it was revealed that Lee had given a party in her house to raise funds for a group later labeled as a Communist front. Though there was no suspicion that she had ever been involved in any putatively "subversive" political causes (and though her real name was spelled differently), Lee became the target of thousands of protest phone calls to her network. Another actress, Camila Ashland, who appeared on the television show Danger, physically resembled Madeline Lee; though she had no political past, her network too became the target of protest phone calls. Madeline Pierce, a 20-year veteran of radio, who again had no political past, was also ultimately blacklisted.
US real estate appraisers
On October 16, 2008, Capitol West Appraisers filed a class action lawsuit against Countrywide Financial Corp. (now owned by Bank of America) alleging Countrywide blacklisted appraisers who refused to appraise real estate at inflated prices.
In Capitol West v. Countrywide Financial Corp., Capitol West Appraisals alleges Countrywide pressured appraisers to set the value of a property at the selling price rather than setting the value based on an inspection of the property and comparable market prices in the area as required by appraisal standards. Misrepresenting the value of a property allowed Countrywide to lend more money to more buyers at higher risks with less collateral. Countrywide could then make more money off the loans by selling them on secondary markets as mortgage backed securities.
Appraisers who refused to misrepresent property values were put in a "do not use" or "Field Review List" data base, in essence a blacklist. When an appraisal was submitted by an appraiser on the "do not use" database it was flagged for "field review". A field review is a review of the original appraisal. All field reviews were conducted by Landsafe, a subsidiary of Countrywide, who would consistently shoot holes in any appraisal from a blacklisted appraiser. Mortgage Brokers were then required to get a second appraisal from another appraiser. Since independent mortgage brokers did not want to pay for two appraisals and did not know which lender they would ultimately use, and since Countrywide was the biggest home mortgage lender in the U.S., brokers simply would not use anyone on the Field Review List.
As of Aug. 28, 2008, more than 2,000 names were on the Field Review List, Countrywide's blacklist, which it sends to mortgage brokers who hire appraisers across the United States.
UK Blacklisting of trade union members
Blacklisting is typically illegal in the UK under the data protection act.
Trade union members, and workers who raised health and safety concerns in the United Kingdom have been blacklisted by employers. They used the services of the Economic League (United Kingdom), which operated between 1919 and 1993, and The Consulting Association, which took over this role until it was closed down in February 2009. However the ICO has subsequently been widely criticised for failing to take further punitive action against the employers using the blacklist, or carrying out any further investigation. The Scottish Select Affairs committee, has subsequently been calling for evidence in relation to blacklisting and an inquiry is underway.
Blacklisting was used in Norway before the Second World War. Well-known blacklisted trade unionists include Thorolf Bugge.
In the Soviet Union and Eastern Bloc, individuals could be blacklisted for political reasons, particularly to deny them employment in their chosen profession.
- Class Action Complaint: Capitol West v. Countrywide (PDF), 16 October 2008
- "Press release" (Press release). Office of the Information Commissioner. 6 March 2009.[dead link]
- Minutes – Management Board, 27 April 2009 (PDF), Information Commissioner's Office, 27 April 2009, p. 5, "8.8. March also saw the ICO investigation into the Consulting Association, which has operated an unregistered database (effectively a ‘blacklist’) of construction industry workers. The Consulting Association was ordered to stop processing the data. The ICO has put in place a system for individuals to check their information. The Board praised the ICO’s joined up work on this matter."
- Damning ICO Misses the Point on Blacklisting from CNPlus.co.uk accessed 24 March 2013
- Builders face blacklist damages claims from Financial Times accessed 24 March 2013