Memorandum on COFEP Complaint against The International Telephone and Radio Manufacturing Corporation and the Federal Telegraph Company, East Newark, New Jersey

To: Dr. Robert C. Weaver

From: Clarence M. Mitchell

Subject: COFEP Complaint against the International Telephone and Radio Manufacturing Corporation and the Federal Telegraph Company, East Newark, N. J.

This complaint was made through Mr. Milton P. Webster of COFEP. The persons complaining are: Messrs. Donald James, Robert Gitten, Raymond Bright and Wallace Wiggins. All of them signed a joint statement that they had seen an advertisement published for the company in the Daily Mirror asking for wiremen and assemblers.[1]

My conference was with Mr. J. A. Nelson, Personnel Manager. He represents both companies and stated that, although the men mentioned International Telephone in their complaint, they really had responded to a request for men to be assigned to Federal Telegraph. He insisted that the four men were not qualified and showed me their application cards. I made no comment. He was unable to explain why the individuals were told: “We are not hiring any colored as yet.” I asked this question specifically. Mr. Nelson also said that he did not see how these men could afford to commute from New York to New Jersey. He did not adequately explain why the company advertises in New York papers for workers if it does not expect to take people from there. He said that some people are gotten from New York or persons living outside of New York “read the papers.” It is interesting to note that from Mr. Nelson’s own statement, the order for wiremen and assemblers has been in his hands since September 10, 1941, and he has not yet completed it. The request is for twenty-five workers and he has only been able to get fifteen.

Negroes are not employed by either concern. Each of the plants has about 1100 persons, according to Mr. Nelson. Although he professed to be interested in the hiring of colored people, he did not appear to have any plans for doing anything about his stated convictions. I would like to suggest that this case be handed back to COFEP for its New York hearings. If you do not agree, our office can continue contact with Mr. H. C. Reamer, Executive Vice-President. The firm has recently signed an agreement with Local 447 of the U.R.E.M.W. of the C.I.O.[2}

MS: copy, HqR77, Office Files of Eugene Davidson, Assistant Director, Oct. 1941-April 1946, International Telephone.

From 4/11/41 to 1/42, Weaver was chief of the Negro Employment and Training Branch within the Labor Division of the Office of Production Management. Next, the NETB functioned in the War Production Board until 7/30/42, when Roosevelt abruptly transferred the FEPC, the NETB and its equal, the Minority Groups Branch, to the War Manpower Commission. From then until 4/24/43, Weaver was chief of the Negro Manpower Service of the WMC (RG 179, 01.469, DNA). Weaver then served as liaison officer between the WMC and the FEPC, with special assignment of developing a program for the fuller utilization of minority groups, until 1/16/44, when WMC announced his resignation. He left to become director of the Mayor’s Committee on Race Relations of Chicago. WMC News Release, 1/16/44, in HqR86, Miscellaneous Releases. Reed, Seedtime, 86-87.

Weaver hired Mitchell on 5/1/41 as his field assistant responsible for the New Jersey, Delaware and Pennsylvania region. He subsequently promoted Mitchell to assistant director of the NETB. For the background of their relationship, see Watson, Lion in the Lobby, 122, 133-4. For more details, see “Official Steps Taken on Discrimination in Defense,” in Minorities in Defense, providing additional dates in its outline of the President’s Committee on Fair Employment Practice, the Negro Employment and Training Branch, Labor Division, OPM, and the Minority Groups Branch, Labor Division, OPM, RG 179, Records of the War Production Board, WPB 015.737, President’s Committee on Fair Employment Practice, Organization, DNA; and Current Programs of NETB, RG 179, Records of WPB, WPB 016.467, NETB Organization, DNA.

  1. [1] Initially, the FEPC was known as the Committee on Fair Employment Practice, or COFEP. For background, see Reed, Seedtime, 10.

                    In their 12/13/42 letter to the COFEP, the complainants said they had been trained at the Harlem Evening Trade School and each had approximately 10 years of experience in “radio installation, repairing, rebuilding and building.” Each had government operators’ license proving them “qualified to operate a station, to operate a ship to shore telephone, to operate police equipment, to operate a broadcasting station, and to construct.” Indeed, they were overqualified; the job they had applied for was mass production work that did not require their range of knowledge. HqR77, Office Files of Eugene Davidson. International Telephone and Radio Manufacturing Co.

  2. [2] United Electrical, Radio, and Machine Workers of America, CIO. See Weaver, Negro Labor, 16-27, 201-2.