EAST LANSING, Mich (Mar. 27)
Governor G. Mennen Williams said today that he intends to take all steps possible “to assure the strictest, fullest enforcement” of Michigan’s fair employment practices act in view of the state’s serious unemployment situation. Noting that more than 14 percent of Michigan’s labor force is now idle, the Governor said that “this major economic crisis faces us all–no matter what our race or religion. “
The Governor made his statement at a luncheon held in honor of Benjamin R. Epstein, national director of the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith. The Governor’s luncheon was also attended by Michigan Jewish community leaders. Governor Williams said that Michigan’s “excellent fair employment practices law, ” which was passed in 1955, is now “facing the test it was designed to meet.”
“Characteristically discrimination in employment does its greatest damage in times of recession or depression. As jobs become scarce, prejudices are apt to become more intense. ” He pointed out that Michigan was one of 13 states with enforceable fair employment machinery adopted since the end of World War II.
Mr. Epstein reported to the Governor the findings of surveys made by the Anti-Defamation League’s Michigan’s Office on the subject of discrimination against Jews in housing and resorts. A survey of practices of real estate agents in various Detroit suburbs disclosed that more than 56 percent of the agents show “varying degrees of discrimination against Jews, ” Epstein said.
In order to check the validity of the agents claim that “the neighbors would object if I sold to a Jew,” the League surveyed attitudes on the part of home-owners in one of the Detroit suburbs. Researchers surveyed one full street of a high level economic area and found that 63 percent of the home owners had no opposition to Jews in their neighborhood or actually welcomed their arrival. The survey concluded that “this apparent minority of home owners–37 percent–succeeds in imposing its will on the majority and also gives the real estate agent the pretext for saying ‘the neighbors don’t want Jews. ‘”