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JFK: Discrimination on Federal Construction Jobs Ends Now

June 4, 1963 - President Kennedy today ordered a quick end to discrimination on all federal construction jobs. The surprise action set the stage for a showdown with building trades unions, which have been notoriously slow to admit Negroes in some cities. It was also obviously designed to prevent a Philadelphia-style racial clash at federal construction sites. In Philadelphia, the NAACP recently picketed a city school building project, charging job discrimination. After several days of violence, the unions involved agreed to accept a small number of Negro craftsmen, and the picketing ended. “I am asking that all federal construction programs be reviewed to prevent any racial discrimination in hiring practices,” said President Kennedy today. Labor Secretary Wirtz said his department was getting a list of all government construction projects and “making a complete review to see if there is any racial discrimination on them.” A report should be ready in two weeks, he said. The President’s special message to Congress on civil rights, expected tomorrow, was postponed until early next week. One official explained that Mr. Kennedy and his aides wanted to talk to more people, including Republicans, so his still-secret bill will “have a chance of passage.”


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