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A lesson about equal opportunity.

The hiring practices at America's Center in downtown St. Louis have been the target of various protests for not employing a fair number of minorities. Some employers held unions responsible. Union leaders told the media that the problem was beyond their control.

It is not my habit to discuss happenings in my earlier life, usually too boring. But the turmoil about hiring blacks and their representation in unions brought to mind some episodes, which could have happened yesterday. They happened about 50 years ago.

Back in 1955, I was hired to handle the public relations, advertising and marketing for Fruin-Colnon Contracting Company (which later was sold, we think more than once, and is now called Frucon).

As the only non-engineer among management, I had anything that was not part of design or construction put on my desk. Thus, I was put in charge of safety and personnel.

The personnel part intrigued me. Actually, I was out of the loop as far as engineers and management were concerned, except for keeping some records and overall recommendations for the allocation of funds.

Because of my close links to the NAACP--about which management knew nothing--I was aware that unrest was building up about hiring practices on the Plaza Square Apartments at Olive and 17th Streets.

I talked to the division manager in charge of this project, who brushed me off saying that's up to the union. Besides, he said, next you probably want my secretary to be.... I responded that this would come next, but let's talk to the unions first.

To lay the groundwork, I met with the Urban League asking it to find a suitable applicant for the carpenters' union. It did. The young man had won awards for stage design, had a polished and appealing personality, had graduated from high school and was eager to become an apprentice with the union.

Next I visited with Irv Meinert--I believe that was the carpenters' union head--and asked him to meet with this applicant.

He flatly turned me down. It's not that I don't want to hire him, he said as far as I recall, but there are sons of my members I cannot hire because I don't have enough openings. To bring in an outsider, of whatever color, just won't work.

Somewhat taken aback, I asked whether unions were not a public institution rather than a family business. I wasn't successful.

Up to then, as far as I remember, only the "labor" union had black members or had units consisting of blacks. When the Plaza construction proceeded, a strike or boycott was called, I believe by the NAACP. After half a century the details have become somewhat vague, but blacks were ultimately hired by some of the unions.

My attempt to smooth the transition failed, some type of boycott succeeded. I guess there is a lesson somewhere.

In this issue, we publish an article that you will not find in either the print or broadcast media.

Left-of-center leaders, spokespersons and heads of organizations have been split about whether even to discuss questions about the implosion of the twin towers destroyed by 9/11 and the collapse of another building not hit by the planes.

When the organizers of the 10 Best Censored Stories included among their selection last year a report by Steven E. Jones, a physicist, asking questions about the circumstances of the destruction, two of the judges resigned from the board of Project Censored because, they argued, it fed into sick conspiracy theories.

C.D. Stelzer on page 20 delves into the controversy. I am not a scientist, nor have I read the detailed reports. Obviously, I cannot make a judgment about the merits of either side. But I do believe that our readers deserve to learn about the controversy. (As one of the judges of the "10 Best," I did not resign from the board.)

Charles L. Klotzer is the editor/publisher emeritus of SJR.
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Title Annotation:America's Center
Author:Klotzer, Charles L.
Publication:St. Louis Journalism Review
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Aug 1, 2007
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