United Steelworkers v. Weber

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United Steelworkers v. Weber
Seal of the United States Supreme Court.svg
Argued March 28, 1979
Decided June 27, 1979
Full case name United Steelworkers of America, AFL-CIO-CLC v. Weber et al.
Citations 443 U.S. 193 (more)
93 S. Ct. 705; 35 L. Ed. 2d 147; 1973 U.S. LEXIS 159
The Supreme Court held that United Steelworkers of America did not violate the Civil Rights Act of 1964,[1] as their affirmative action plan attempted to help minority workers and did not prevent other employees from advancing.
Court membership
Case opinions
Majority Brennan, joined by Stewart, White, Marshall, Blackmun
Concurrence Blackmun
Dissent Burger
Dissent Rehnquist, joined by Burger
Powell, Stevens took no part in the consideration or decision of the case.

United Steelworkers of America v. Weber, 443 U.S. 193 (1979), was a case regarding affirmative action in which the United States Supreme Court held that the Civil Rights Act of 1964[1] did not bar employers from favoring women and minorities. The Court's decision reversed lower courts' rulings in favor of Brian Weber whose lawsuit beginning in 1974 challenged his employer's hiring practices.


Brian Weber was 32 years old, and worked as a laboratory assistant at a chemical plant. His company, Kaiser Aluminum and Chemical Corp, had a policy of allowing whites and blacks into a training program on a one-to-one basis, even though there were many more whites than blacks. This came from a collective agreement with United Steelworkers of America. Weber did not get in. More training would have led to a pay raise. Weber claimed this violated the Civil Rights Act of 1964 Title VII. The company and the union argued it was pursuing affirmative action to remedy historical disadvantages among blacks.


Lower and federal courts supported Weber's claim that the Civil Rights Act of 1964[1] banned all forms of racial discrimination in employment whether against blacks or whites.

Supreme Court[edit]

By five to two the Supreme Court held that the affirmative action plan was lawful. The majority (Brennan, Stewart, White, Marshall and Blackmun JJ) held that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 did not prohibit all kinds of affirmative action programs. They held that the plan of affirmative action must first be transitional in nature and serve in fact to correct situations of imbalance by restoring equality at the starting point and should not set out to reproduce them artificially even when the effects of past discrimination have been wiped out. An affirmative action plan has to be (1) necessary (2) aiming to correct a statistical imbalance (3) not result in an absolute bar to hiring non-minority people (4) temporary, with an end date or goal (5) allow flexibility for hiring non-minorities.

Chief Justice Burger, dissenting, said he might vote for this if he were a member of Congress, but he was not and the Civil Rights Act 1964 Title VII explicitly prohibited this form of discrimination. Not having affirmative action was agreed to be the position when the Act was passed. He finished by quoting Benjamin Cardozo, The Nature of Judicial Process (1921) 141, warning to beware of the ‘good result’ and judges exceeding their authority to get it.

Justice Rehnquist dissented. He quoted George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-four (1949) 181, where in a sudden jump, mid sentence, the government declares war on Eastasia instead, without blinking, and said this was like the approach to interpretation of the majority.

He cited two Senators explaining precisely that the Bill would not require a deliberate attempt to maintain a racial balance, because that would be recruiting on the basis of race, which would be unlawful.

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