United Airlines Is Asking California Voters To Support Affirmative Action

In 1996 California voters adopted proposition 209 which provided that “the State shall not discriminate against, or grant preferential treatment to, any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin in the operation of public employment, public education, or public contracting.” It banned government-sponsored affirmative action.

Today California voters consider proposition 16, to repeal that affirmative action ban. The state’s official arguments for and against are here. The argument in favor is that there’s still discrimination. The argument against is that affirmative action won’t solve this, and increase the cost of government contracting 5.6% by choosing non-lowest cost bidders based on race (as well as punish ‘overachieving’ Asians). The ‘for’ side has out-raised opponents 16 to 1.

United Airlines weighed in, and they want to see affirmative action in California. Matthew Klint cites an internal airline communication to 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 public letter United signed is here. United believes Proposition 16 will “ontinue to diversify the California workforce so that it reflects our state’s demographics.”

By the way when United furloughed 16,000 staff last month, including nearly 7000 flight attendants and 2000 mechanics, they didn’t take the racial makeup of their workforce into account. It strikes me as strange as well as critics on the left continue to see corporations as anathema to democracy and corporate issue advocacy as working against their goals.

Most recent polling has the measure failing, a surprise to many in the current political environment and in California in particular. But we – along with United – will learn the actual results soon enough.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. […] Cisgender, heterosexual white men on the right have donned drag in the past without controversy, including Rudy Giuliani and Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene’s (R-GA) boyfriend, rightwing media personality Brian Glenn. Greene, who has protested drag queen shows in the past, laughed off claims that there was anything inappropriate about her boyfriend doing drag because it happened “years ago.” The same grace, though, apparently doesn’t apply to CEOs of airlines that support diversity in the workplace. […]


  1. “By the way when United furloughed 16,000 staff last month, including nearly 7000 flight attendants and 2000 mechanics, they didn’t take the racial makeup of their workforce into account. “

  2. Corporations are risk-averse and lazy. They would like to be able to easily meet hiring and promotion quotas without any legal liability for discriminating against other candidates.

  3. White and Asian should oppose affirmative action because it hurts their own

    Black and Latinx should oppose affirmative action because it’s the soft bigotry of low expectations.

    No on Prop 16

  4. @Jason

    Correct. Whites need a voice too in America where every other group is actively represented. We have politicians who talk about the latino community, the black community, the Native American community, the Asian community, the Muslim community (Arabs, Persians, south Asians, and etc.), and the Indian community. No one talks or speaks up for the white community or issues which affect it.

    You’re right that racial quotas and affirmative action are signs of inferiority. Liberals think blacks and non white latinos are not capable of achieving success on their own so they push affirmative action. Liberals push to have tests dumbed down or eliminated completely when blacks fail to pass them like in fire departments or other civil service jobs. It’s the same thing with voter ID laws they challenge on the grounds it disproportionately affects the black community. Isn’t it crazy that we need IDs to open a bank account, enter a college campus, buy beer, get a library card, enter a federal court house, or travel on an airplane, but their argument is blacks are incapable of getting IDs.

    The first poster is right that some are more equal than others. It’s sad that the left lumps all blacks and all non white latinos in the inferior category. We on the right recognize groups as a whole tend to be different but individually there are millions of people from any group that are capable of succeeding on their own and passing the same tests as everyone else. We give individuals a fair chance at anything; the left lumps all blacks and non white latinos as inferiors deserving our help. It’s offensive.

  5. Everyone should vote No on “affirmative action” because it’s literally just racial and gender discrimination.

    At least on the part of the government, it should be illegal in the entire United States due to the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause, regardless of what CA’s constitution says about it.

  6. Since it is apparently not a “miles and points” blog anymore, but a political one, Gary should run an analysis on CA prop 22, too. (It is about excluding Lyft/ Uber/ Doordash drivers from a legislation that was created to ban their employment model at the first place, – which is kinda ironic). It would not be even off-topic here as one can always add a line or two about CSR and how it comes with Lyft Pink and DashPass membership.
    Then, there are lot of state measures to legalize cannabis, – so they can be tied to an (quite existential, if you ask me) question which card one should use to pay for legal weed and when we should expect it to be included in 5% category rotation.
    Finally, traditionally there are always local measures to issue school district bonds and new parcel taxes – at the moment I don’t see how it can be tied to points yet, but hey, we believe in Gary – he sure can do it.
    This way we can make this blog closer to real people on the ground and not only to some rare miles aficionados. Its a win-win for all of us, I assure you. And if somebody is going to be against this shift, we can always call them racists and trumpanzees in the comment section – another distinguished feature of this blog known for its friendly and tolerable atmosphere.

  7. Affirmative action should go away, I don’t believe we need it any longer and I am a person of color. I strongly believe race, and/or color shouldn’t play a role in who get accepted or who gets an opportunity. I think it should all be based on who worked the hardest.

    Secondly part of this article is wrong United did not furlough 16,000 employees that number was around 13,000. Also I’m not sure why furloughs were even brought up in reference to UA’s flight attendants and mechanics seeing that they are all union and furloughs are based on company seniority not the color of a person skin.

  8. Here’s an additional perspective:

    In the San Francisco Bay Area county where I live, non-hispanic whites are in the minority… So who is the “minority” that should be quoted in, and who is “majority” that should be effectively discriminated against? Does it mean that whites should get preferential treatment here?

    The bottom line is that equal opportunity shouldn’t be reverse racism. It’s about supportive programs and other efforts to give disempowered communities the TOOLS to be successful – and then enable the individuals from those communities to succeed based on MERIT. Not the reverse racism called “affirmative action”.

  9. “There is another class of coloured people who make a business of keeping the troubles, the wrongs, and the hardships of the Negro race before the public. Having learned that they are able to make a living out of their troubles, they have grown into the settled habit of advertising their wrongs — partly because they want sympathy and partly because it pays. Some of these people do not want the Negro to lose his grievances, because they do not want to lose their jobs.”
    Booker T. Washington

  10. As expected, this proposition failed. The societal problem is that affirmative action is systematic racial discrimination, and strikes most people as wrong. But at the same time, there is no evidence that a colorblind society would propel blacks to equal prosperity and achievement — an equal RESULT — and many people don’t like this. In any event, United Airlines, and all companies really, have no business getting involved in controversial non-business related issues such as this one.

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