California Studies Association

The latest news, events, and perspectives from the CSA

Women and African Americans Struggled for Employment Equality During WWII

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Who was left to build ships after men went to fight the war against fascism? Everybody else. A massive labor migration to defense industries began. And the most difficult labor decision Henry J. Kaiser faced was how to handle union opposition to accepting the new workforce in his West Coast shipyards in Richmond and Portland.Carroll-issue-OSC19420813_0215-1-med.jpg

Three recent articles explore the complex challenge faced by women and African Americans to get union jobs in home front industries.

White women were the first excluded group to win full admission to the Boilermakers Union. African Americans had to suffer with a separate-but-unequal “auxiliary” level of that union until the war’s end, but they fought back as well.

The arc of justice has moved forward; the Boilermakers Union is a major sponsor of the Rosie the Riveter World War II Home Front National Historical Park and actively recruits women and people of color in the trade.

-Lincoln Cushing


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