Today is election day in the United States. In a country with deep internal division, there’s more on the ballot than choosing the next President. In California, voters will consider Prop 16, a controversial ballot initiative that would restore affirmative action at public institutions in California. United Airlines has told employees that it supports Prop 16.
United Airlines: We Support Restoration Of Affirmative Action In California (Prop 16)
There are many controversial issues across the nation that will be voted on today, but to my knowledge United Airlines has only taken a position on one issue: Prop 16 in California.
In 1996, California voters amended the state constitution to prohibit state governmental institutions from considering race, sex, or ethnicity, specifically in the areas of public employment, public contracting, and public education. Prop 16 would overrun the constitutional amendment and again permit government decision-making policies to consider race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin “in order to address diversity.”
United Airlines told employees:
United is deeply committed to promoting diversity, equity and inclusion within our company as well as endorsing political action that supports furthering those efforts in citizens’ everyday lives. United has joined over 30 major San Francisco businesses (The Golden State Warriors, Salesforce and Twitter, to name a few) to sign an open letter in support of California’s Proposition 16, firmly believing that this legislative change will promote racial and gender equity, contributing to California’s economic success…
As an organization made of a diverse workforce, we are proud to support legislation that furthers the success of underrepresented communities.
The open letter argues:
Affirmative action is essential to combat the systemic racism entrenched in our country and state. We need affirmative action to fight discrimination, level the playing field, and increase our workforce diversity. A recent Citigroup report found that America’s economic health could have accelerated by $16 trillion in additional growth if not for structural inequities and barriers to education, housing access, wages and business investment between Black and White Americans over the past 20 years. Compounding these shortcomings with a less diversified talent pipeline not only inhibits lifting up the collective prospects of our neighborhoods, but it also cedes novel innovation, small business growth, and GDP to our competitors around the globe as they prioritize diverse representation as an economic engine…
California is one of only nine states in the U.S. that bans affirmative action, still accepting old, and unfounded, misconceptions about affirmative action. The Supreme Court has ruled that racial quotas are unconstitutional. Proposition 16 will not lead to quotas, but it will pave the way for women and people of color to equally compete for government contracts, provide equal opportunity for all in education and work, and continue to diversify the California workforce so that it reflects our state’s demographics.
You can read the full letter here.
Jessica Kimbrough, United’s Chief Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer, added:
“United’s support of Prop 16 illustrates how we can holistically influence positive progress for the employees, customers, suppliers and communities we serve.”
Like the BLM pins, this issue has stirred far more controversy than unity within United. I’ve spoken to several United employees about this and reaction is quite mixed. Some support it, others do not. Those against it are petrified of speaking out publicly against it for fear of reprisals from colleagues and management. One talked my ear off, noting this proposition is solely designed to lower the number of Asians accepted to California’s public colleges and universities. That may indeed be a troubling byproduct of this initiative, though I have seen no evidence to suggest that is the motive for Prop 16.
United’s choice to wade into a contentious political issue is an inserting policy choice. Voter sentiment is divided, with recent polling suggesting 49% are opposed and 38% in favor of the constitutional amendment.