The recent passing of labor activist Nate Smith reminded me of an appearance he once made on a Pittsburgh TV program about Blacks being barred from the construction industry. Mr. Smith was being recognized as a national leader in the labor and civil rights movements.
On that program, Nate Smith appeared with another important leader in the fields of equality, and civil rights, Msgr. Charles Owen Rice (the labor priest), who had been active with Dr. Martin Luther King and a strong opponent of the mindless Vietnam war. Msgr. Rice and Nate Smith agreed on the fact that the construction industry in the Pittsburgh region was wrong in barring Blacks from construction jobs even in the midst of a building boom, which included the Civic Arena.
I later discovered that it wasn’t only the management and trade unions that discriminated against Black workers but also a Federal law called the Davis Bacon Act of 1931. Designed specifically to eliminate Blacks from the construction industry during the Great Depression, Davis Bacon has been called the last of the Jim Crow laws and is still in place today. Look at any construction project and you’ll see it in action.
Beaver Falls, Pa.