Benjamin Hooks, director-designate of the NAACP, said yesterday that his organization is working on a bill to counter a Supreme Court decision upholding seniority systems even if they perpetuate the effects of racial discrimination that took place before passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
In a 7-to-2 decision May 31, the court found that Congress, in the 1964 act, protected bona fide seniority systems from challenges stemming from race-sex job discrimination complaints.
Critics have charged that the effect of the ruling is to perpetuate the effects of racial discrimination that occurred before 1964.
Hooks, in an interview on "Face the Nation" (CBS, WTOP), acknowledged that the NAACP's efforts to get legislation blocking the effect of that ruling may put the organization at loggerheads with its traditional allies in the labor movement - many of whom view the seniority system as sacrosanct.
But, said Hooks: "We [in the NAACP] believe that an accommodation can and must be reached between firing people who were last hired because of affirmative action, and respecting seniority; and we think that can be done through some legislative methods."
Hooks said he had "called on four or five outstanding scholars . . . to help prepare such a bill."
He said he does not believe the Supreme Court's decision "was . . . a constitutional decision as much as it was the interpretation legislation - so that we still have the opportunity to try to go into Congress and get legislation."
Hooks bristled when asked if he thought that affirmative action programs - through which may minorities were brought into largely white occupations - was a form of reverse discrimination. He replied: "It boggles my mind, and it makes me almost question the wisdom and fairness of America . . .
"Twenty years ago or back, they put a sign up that only white males need apply . . . Now, the minute you . . . pass a law that says you can no longer say that blacks and women and Hispanics need not apply - the very minute you do that, obviously that white man can claim that he was disadvantaged."