Workers aided by affirmative action uneasy about future
April 9, 1997
SAN FRANCISCO (CNN) -- Californians who have benefited from affirmative action programs are wondering what will happen to their economic future now that an appeals court has cleared the way for those programs to be abolished.
"It's going to be a bad situation for us as minorities, trying to make it in an area where affirmative action had such a strong hold," said John Cottrell, a construction worker in Oakland, a city where hundreds of minority employees were hired under the auspices of affirmative action.
But the most high-profile opponent of affirmative action in California, Gov. Pete Wilson, says there are other ways to provide a helping hand to the disadvantaged. These include improving education, providing prenatal care to mothers and creating mentoring programs so disadvantaged children will have role models.
"All of those things genuinely produce the kind of equality of access to opportunity that is owed every child of every race," Wilson said.
Appeals court upheld initiative Tuesday
On Tuesday, a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Proposition 209, an initiative passed by California voters last year that abolishes affirmative action.
A federal district court judge had overturned the initiative, but the appeals court reversed his decision, saying there was "no doubt" Proposition 209 was constitutional.
Under the initiative's language, approved by 53 percent of the voters, programs giving preferences to women and minorities in areas such as public works contracts and admissions to state universities must come to an end.
Opponents of Proposition 209, which include the ACLU and private plaintiffs, have vowed to appeal Tuesday's ruling. The case is expected to reach the U.S. Supreme Court.
Affirmative action a thorny issue for Clinton
In Washington, officials at the Department of Justice have not yet decided whether they will join in that appeal.
Affirmative action has been a thorny political issue for the Clinton administration. The president opposed Proposition 209 in the election, but the Justice Department initially stayed on the sidelines when the measure was challenged in court.
However, after opponents of Proposition 209 won the first round in court and the state appealed to the 9th Circuit, Justice attorneys filed a brief opposing the appeal.
Attorney general expects measures to spread
Now that California has prevailed in the circuit court, Attorney General Dan Lungren, a supporter of Proposition 209, says he expects other states to consider similar bans on affirmative action.
"This may very well lead to a movement across the United States to reassess where we are with these kinds of programs," Lungren said.
Correspondent Don Knapp contributed to this report.
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