Minorities in the Shipyard

Much like women, minorities faced challenges in reaping the full benefits of the shipbuilding industries' need for workers. Most shipyards were eager to have their sites at full capacity and receive more government contracts despite any personal racist feelings they had; unions, however, were not as willing to put them aside. The Boilermakers International was the main union working in shipyards. Their contracts with the shipyards meant that only union members could work in many positions. Embedded in their constitution, the Boilerworkers International specifically forbade Blacks from becoming members. As the need for more workers increased and the federal government introduced antidiscrimination requirements for contracts, the union allowed auxiliary locals to allow Blacks to work. Yet these auxiliaries were less than members, many were still not allowed to take the most skilled jobs and had far fewer benefits than full members. The treatment of Blacks by the union led to lawsuits such as James v. Marinship in northern California and Shipyard Workers v. Boilermakers International Local 92 in Los Angeles. As a result of the successful lawsuit, the CalShip employees were given equal status in the Boilermakers Union. Unfortunately, the union was allowed to do this by making a “separate but equal” lodge that ended up being in competition with Local 92 post-war leading to less work for the new lodge.

Minorities in the Shipyard