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The shipbuilding industry in the United States was inundated during the Second World War with more than one million workers new to the expanding defense industry. The U. Maritime Commission, in dire need of workers to produce large s of "Victory Ships" for the war effort, required shipbuilding companies to extend job opportunities to women and to racial minorities who had ly been excluded from employment. As many white Americans went to fight overseas, racial and gender barriers were lifted, allowing thousands of black and women workers entry into the shipbuilding industry.
However, in mandating defense industries to open facilities to blacks, the federal government was also responding to increasing pressure from the black community. Black leadership's activism against federal Jim Crow policies forced the federal government to reconcile black grievances by issuing Executive Orderwhich required federal defense industries to finally employ ly excluded black labor. Expansion of the shipbuilding industry on the Pacific coast had a profound effect in certain cities, changing demography and population dramatically.
The East Bay community--Richmond and Oakland in particular--experienced a rapid influx of blacks from the South who came to work in the Kaiser and Moore Dry Dock shipyards.
Many came with the intention of making better lives for themselves, because Jim Crow laws throughout the South severely restricted the possibility of social and economic mobility for blacks. Although the shipbuilding industry on the West coast provided relatively better economic opportunities than the Jim Crow South, blacks were still forced to adhere to a subservient role in society.
They still had to confront the realities of being black. They were racially discriminated against within the workplace and in their communities. Within the shipyards blacks were confined to menial, unskilled positions. Blacks were forced to settle into segregated neighborhoods in the East Bay.
Redlining and restrictive covenants kept blacks in the older and most deteriorated sections of the East Bay. Despite the improved economic opportunities the West and the shipbuilding industry offered, blacks still had to confront racial discrimination. In fact, it can be argued that blacks in the West were expected to maintain modes of racial behavior enforced in the Jim Crow South. Blacks were still seen as inferior and not worthy of equal status with whites. The shipbuilding industry allows us to examine the complexities of race relations as many blacks and whites were forced to work alongside one another for the first time.
Therefore, it is critical to examine the treatment of black workers in the shipyards to gain a better understanding of race relations within this major federal defense industry and in the East Bay. As thousands of black migrants streamed into the East Bay to fill labor demand, shipyard managers had to integrate these newcomers into their industrial plants.
The Kaiser Company, which opened up its facilities in Richmond during World War II, led the nation in shipbuilding innovation as it instituted a new system production known as prefabrication. Under this system, certain construction processes were performed at different sites.
For example, Kaiser shipyards had four industrial sites in Richmond, each specializing in one area of production. Prefabrication allowed for more efficiency in the production of ships, which meant more jobs and accommodation for the blacks, women, and other newcomers who would work in the shipyards. This new form of production proved to be effective and was soon instituted at other Kaiser yards in Portland and Vancouver; in the Bechtel yards in Marin County, California; at Calship in the Los Angeles harbor area; and in other war-born shipyards as well Johnson, Older shipyards, such as the Moore Dry Dock in Oakland for example, would adopt certain prefabrication techniques in their yard to increase production and would then need to expand their labor pool, bringing in new workers.
Prefabrication also meant specialization and the de-skilling of certain trades. For example, some trades such as the boilermaker trade required 17 different job classifications Johnson, Under prefabrication, workers began to specialize in specific levels of production. For example, historian Marilyn S. Johnson writes, "Welders were confined to specific kinds of welding, and electricians were ased specific wiring jobs, such as control panels or cabin lighting.
Unskilled newcomers could advance from trainee to journeymen within a short period of time. This new system had other implications, because blacks were subject to discriminatory practices. Blacks often occupied the most unskilled and menial jobs in the shipbuilding industry.
Many blacks performed the most arduous tasks, such as cleaning the yards and other outdoor work, which required hard physical labor Johnson, At the Moore Dry Dock Company, blacks were employed for maintenance work, rigging, welding, plate-hanging, and other crafts of shipbuilding, in contrast to those of outfitting and repair which were regarded as more skilled and received higher wages. However, some trades excluded blacks as a whole; for example, steamfitting and pipefitting were reserved for white workers only Archibald, Although the expansion of semiskilled positions offered newcomers job advancement, black workers were restricted in occupational mobility compared to their white counterparts.
Blacks were most often excluded from leadership roles and supervisory positions. There were a very few black foremen to be found in the Kaiser and Moore Dry Dock shipyards, but they functioned only to supervise other black workers and had no authority over white workers. As one historian points out, "Foreman, leaderman, and other supervisory positions were dominated by old-timers and other white male workers" Johnson, Management- operated apprenticeship programs were often closed to black applicants at the Kaiser and Dry Dock shipyards.
Instead blacks were channeled to fill other areas of shipbuilding such as welding, burning, shipfitting, and other semiskilled trades For most blacks in the shipbuilding industry there were few prospects for meaningful promotion. Although there were the same of operatives as laborers in the total shipbuilding industry, there were fewer than one-half as many black operatives as there were black laborers; and, although there was a large proportion of blacks who worked in the shipbuilding industry, they were paid lower wages than whites doing the same work.
At Moore Dry Dock, blacks often worked different jobs than whites throughout the year. Although blacks represented over 20 percent of the shipyard work force, they were underrepresented in highly skilled and managerial positions. Blacks and whites worked together in almost every trade but rarely mixed socially.
Most blacks and whites lived in different parts of the city, and so rarely came in contact off the job. The arrival of migrant white workers, many of whom refused to work alongside blacks, increased the level of racial tension. As sociologist Archibald has noted, stated "The typical white worker preferred death. The expansion of the shipbuilding industries on the Pacific coast also altered gender traditions as black women workers were allowed entry to the defense industries that had once excluded them.
Their experience was shared with black men as both encountered racial discrimination at Moore Dry Dock, Kaiser, and other shipyards. Black women and men alike were looked down on by white coworkers and supervisors who regarded them as inferior.
Black women were often concentrated in the most physical White men who want to fuck black women San Francisco California labor-intensive jobs. Black women's problems were compounded beyond those experienced by black men because of gender differences. Prior to World War II, white males dominated the shipbuilding industry. Shortly after the war began, a manpower shortage brought women into the industry, where they encountered an unfamiliar and hostile environment. As women worked alongside the opposite sex, men openly expressed their resentment about women working in the shipyards.
For example, one foreman at Moore Dry Dock during the war years expressed his feelings about women workers by shouting, "Women are no good at all in the shipyards. They're lazy and shiftless, and they have to make all the men around them useless, too. I've finally got rid of the women in my department, and I don't want any of them back. It's too bad every skirt in Moore Dry Dock can't be given her quit slip right now Archibald, These thoughts were shared and expressed by most males in the shipyards where women were employed in large s.
Most males regarded women as incapable of doing labor-intensive work. They thought women should the home exercise their talents for taking care of the home and children.
One male worker, expressing a common male view, said, employee "A married woman's first duty is to her home and family. And you can't have a job and keep a home as well" Archibald, Males also thought that women working outside the home were White men who want to fuck black women San Francisco California the bounds of traditional marriage.
One craftsman expressed this view by asking, "Do they call a woman who works a wife? Men simply were not willing to accept women working outside the home. Male egotism resisted the advance of women into the shipbuilding trades. Men persisted in viewing women as incapable of assuming work roles traditionally filled by men. One employee at Moore Dry Dock commented, "They can't do the work as well as a man. They don't have the brains of men, and they don't have the strength" Archibald, But, as Archibald states, beneath the men's stated objection to women crossing traditional sex role boundaries, "more obvious, persistent, and perhaps more basic was the fear of women as competitors.
Men were unwilling to accept women on an equal level in shipbuilding work, which paid relatively better than other occupations. For many male shipyard workers, women represented another level of competition Not only did they have to compete with other males and blacks for promotion, but with women as well. Life for black migrant women who worked in the shipyards was indeed stressful. For many, work did not end after their shift was done at the yards; they still had to take on domestic responsibilities of the household, which meant cooking for the family, cleaning the house, and taking care of the children and husband.
Clearly migrant black migrant women endured not only physical but emotional stress as they were overburdened with homemaking responsibilities that extended beyond their daily shifts of shipbuilding work. The shipbuilding industry represented better economic opportunities for black women than what they had ly had experienced. Working in the defense industry provided better wages than most other domestic jobs that were open to them.
For many black migrant women working in the shipyards was a great accomplishment. But despite these gains, black women still remained at the bottom of the occupational ladder. The rise of the shipbuilding industry on the Pacific coast was accompanied by the growth of union membership. The International Brotherhood of Boilermakers, Iron Shipbuilders and Helpers of America represented the majority of west coast shipyard workers.
Boilermakers union membership grew by several thousand on a national level, expanding from 28, in toby November Archibald, The union represented 65 percent to 70 percent of all west coast shipyard workers Johnson, At the Kaiser shipyards in Richmond, Boilermakers Localwhich originated during the war, had a membership exceeding 35, However, black workers seeking union membership were blocked by outright exclusionary policies by the trade unions.
Instead of integrating the new black workers into the union with other white workers, the unions established separate, auxiliary locals specifically for blacks. This type of practice was common in the Jim Crow South but had spread throughout the nation during the war years.
These auxiliaries were controlled by their parent locals of the boilermakers' and steamfitters' unions. The black auxiliary locals exercised no power. They had no union vote or representation at national conventions.White men who want to fuck black women San Francisco California
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