Without real public input, without vociferous public debate, and without significant media coverage, the Reagan administration has seriously attacked the equal opportunity program in America.
Today, less than 20 years after the initiation of long-overdue civil rights mandates, the very existence of those laws are already being challenged.
In January, 1982, Max Benavidez, editor of Equal Opportunity Forum, warned that the whole federal machinery for the protection of equal opportunity was almost totally destroyed.
“From federal contract compliance (Dept. of Labor) to Title IX (Dept. of Education) to employment (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) to government advocacy of the law (Dept. of Justice), the Reagan Administration has stripped away the traditional role of government in protecting the rights of disenfranchised citizens.”
In December, 1962, his ominous warning was given credibility in a study released by Women Employed, a Chicago-based working women’s organization.
The study analyzed the performance of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the Office of Federal Contract Compliance (OFCCP), using the agencies’ own performance statistics and internal reports. The EEOC enforces Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, the Equal Pay Act, and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act. The OFCCP is responsible for enforcing Executive Order 11246 which bans discrimination by federal contractors.
As forewarned by Benavidez, Women Employed found that “dramatic reductions in enforcement activity, combined with agency policy changes and budget cuts, threaten to dismantle the entire federal enforcement apparatus. The damage currently being done to the federal equal opportunity enforcement mechanisms will set back efforts toward that goal for years to come.”
The dismantling of federal machinery for the protection of equal opportunity and the abandonment of long-range humane goals for America deserved far more attention from the media that was given in 1982.
(Ironically, as if to highlight his earlier predictions, Equal Opportunity Forum, the monthly magazine edited by Max Benavidez, was forced to suspend publication in 1982.)
Equal Opportunity Forum, January 1982; Labor Notes, 12/21/82, “Reagan Administration Dismantles Equal Opportunity Enforcement;” Max Benavidez, 5/28/82, correspondence.