NAACP, Western Region v. Brennan, Civ. A. No. 2010-72.

Decision Date31 May 1973
Docket NumberCiv. A. No. 2010-72.
PartiesNAACP, WESTERN REGION, et al., Plaintiffs, v. Peter J. BRENNAN et al., Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — District of Columbia


Lawrence J. Sherman, Migrant Legal Action Program, Inc., Washington, D. C., Sarel M. Kandel, Washington, D. C., Robert Gnaizda, Albert Moreno, Public Advocates, Inc., San Francisco, Cal., Mario Obledo, Mexican-American Defense Fund, San Antonio, Tex., David Hall, United Farmworkers Organizing Committee, Tulsa, Okl., for plaintiffs.

Harlington Wood, Jr., Asst. Atty. Gen., Harold H. Titus, Jr., U. S. Atty., Harland F. Leathers, Atty., Dept. of Justice, Arnold T. Aikens, Asst. U. S. Atty., J. Michael Cogbill, Atty., Dept. of Justice, for defendants.


CHARLES R. RICHEY, District Judge.

This is a case of nationwide significance in that it bears directly on the wellbeing and social dignity of migrant and seasonal farmworkers throughout the United States and its territories. Plaintiffs are eighty-eight individuals and seventeen organizations who are either farmworkers or organizations whose members include farmworkers. They claim that Defendants, who are the Secretary of Labor and other officials within the Department of Labor, have violated Plaintiffs' rights and failed to fulfill their obligations to the Plaintiffs by participating in and perpetuating discriminatory and other unlawful practices being conducted by Federally-funded-State operated employment services, particularly those services dealing with farm labor. By approving the program operations of and providing financial support for state employment services which allegedly engage in racial and other types of discrimination, and which allegedly fail to insure that migrant and seasonal farmworkers receive such amenities as adequate food and housing from the employers to whom they are referred, Plaintiffs assert that Defendants have violated the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution, Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the Wagner-Peyser Act. In order to alleviate their plight, Plaintiffs have requested this Court to grant declaratory and injunctive relief directing Defendants to use their powers to require that these state employment agencies serve farmworkers according to law. Plaintiffs' claims have caused much concern to the Court, and after careful consideration of the facts and legal authorities presented by the parties, the Court has determined that Plaintiffs are entitled to a declaration that Defendants have violated Plaintiffs' rights in the past, and an injunction prohibiting Defendants from violating those rights in the future.


Enacted in 1933, the Wagner-Peyser Act, (the Act), 29 U.S.C. §§ 49-49k, established the basis for a national system of public employment offices by creating the United States Employment Service (USES) within the Department of Labor. The purpose of the Act was to provide for a cooperative Federal-State system of public employment offices to be operated by the States under systems created by State law.1 Today, the USES develops policies and methods for coordinating and guiding a nationwide network of more than 2,000 public employment offices in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and Guam. While each local state office is State staffed and operated, the USES has the responsibility for insuring that State plans of operation conform with Federal laws; providing uniform methods for operating employment service offices; maintaining a program for referring labor from one area to another; giving technical assistance to the State in legislation and administration; and assisting in the determination of funds necessary for the administration of the State Employment Service programs.2

The local state offices are 100% funded by Federal grants-in-aid pursuant to the provisions of Title III of the Social Security Act, the Wagner-Peyser Act and the Appropriation Act.3 In order for the State to obtain the financial assistance available under the Act, the State must accept the provisions of the Act and establish a State agency vested with the powers necessary to cooperate with the USES.4 In addition, the State must submit detailed plans for carrying out the provisions of the Act within the State. If the plans conform to the provisions of the Act and are adequate to carry out its purposes, they are approved by the Secretary and notice given to the State.5 The Act further requires the State to submit reports to the Secretary; places a duty on the Secretary to ascertain whether the system of public employment offices maintained in each State is conducted in accordance with the Secretary's rules, regulations and standards of efficiency; and provides that the Secretary may revoke any existing certificate for funding or withhold any new certificate if he finds that the State has not properly expended the monies paid to it.6 In order to implement this funding system, and in accordance with his rule-making authority,7 the Secretary has issued detailed regulations establishing the procedures for continuation and termination of funds, and the policies of the service under which the State offices are to be operated.8

The Wagner-Peyser Act provides for a Farm Labor Service (FLS) within the USES.9 Because it was established during the depression, when jobs were needed and severe agricultural labor shortages existed in particular areas, the FLS assumed a more active concern for the needs of farmer employers than for those of the farm workers.10 An extensive worker recruitment system was therefore established in order to allow the FLS to expeditiously provide manpower from other localities or other States when necessary to work in the fields.11 By 1969, this system and long years of high demand had created a large pool of labor, "many schooled only in farm field work, and many unaccustomed to any other life or work than the migratory farm labor stream."12 But through increased productivity occasioned by technological advances, the need for and shortage of agricultural workers "had completely reversed, leaving a serious condition of oversupply."13 At the same time, it was evident that the social and economic conditions of those workers who could still find farm employment were "less than desirable."14

As a result of the changed rural situation, the Department of Labor, in 1969, implemented an administrative reorganization which merged the Farm Labor Service into the Rural Manpower Service (RMS). Farm labor placement was no longer the singular goal. Instead, emphasis shifted to decreasing the supply of unskilled farm workers through the provision of full manpower services to rural residents—the same services which were provided in other areas by the Employment Service. The RMS, through a network of local state operated Employment Service offices, was thus to provide counseling, training and job development services.15 In carrying out these services, policies and procedures were designed to insure that Federal statutory and regulatory requirements were met, and information on the states' adherence to Federal guidelines was to be regularly provided in the form of their reports to the Department of Labor.16

The instant litigation has its origins in an administrative complaint filed by the Plaintiffs and other petitioners with the Department of Labor on April 22, 1971. The complaint charged the RMS with violations of the petitioners' rights under the Constitution, the Wagner-Peyser Act, Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Immigration and Naturalization Act, the Occupational Safety and Health Act, and the Social Security Act, by allowing discrimination and violations of minimum wage, housing, sanitation, child labor, and foreign worker regulations to exist in the RMS system.

After extensive correspondence with Plaintiffs' counsel, and in response to expressions of interest shown by the Agricultural Labor Subcommittee of the House Education and Labor Committee. Defendants announced their decision to dispatch the Special Review Staff (SRS) of the Manpower Administration to conduct an intradepartmental investigation of Plaintiffs' charges and to report directly to the then Assistant Secretary for Manpower, Malcomb Lovell.17 Ten months later, in April 1972, the SRS Report was released by Defendants, along with a separate document setting forth a Thirteen Point Plan aimed at correcting the problems the SRS found to exist at the time of its investigation.18

On April 24, 1972, then Assistant Secretary Lovell publicly explained the Department's action to the House Farm Labor Subcommittee. He minimized the seriousness of the civil rights and program violations contained in the SRS Report,19 and this brought a vigorous challenge from the Plaintiffs. Then Secretary of Labor Hodgson subsequently invited the Migrant Legal Action Program, Inc., on behalf of the Plaintiffs, to meet with the Assistant Secretary for purposes of discussing the adequacy of his proposed reforms. The Migrant Legal Action Program, Inc., met with Defendants and informed them that the reforms were inadequate and that a meaningful plan of reform should be instituted on or before July 1, 1972, the beginning of the next fiscal year.20 Over Plaintiffs' counsel's objections, Defendants, on July 1, 1972, refunded in place the entire network of state Rural Manpower Service and Employment Services serving farmworkers. This action, and the alleged failure of Defendants to take any visible action to correct the problems pointed out in the SRS Report, led to cessation of informal contacts between the parties and the filing of the present lawsuit.


As Plaintiffs seek judicial relief as to allegedly substantial constitutional and statutory claims, they maintain that the Court has jurisdiction over the subject matter of this suit pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §1343(3) and (4), 28 U.S.C. § 1331, an...

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