Right-of-Way: Equal Employment Opportunity on the Trans Alaska Oil Pipeline, 1968-1977
This dissertation compares four programs to create equal employment opportunity on the trans Alaska oil pipeline construction project in order to demonstrate the ruptures and continuities between manpower programs to end poverty and affirmative action to eradicate race and sex discrimination. These four programs posited different subjects and strategies for equal employment opportunity, including a statewide affirmative action plan supporting minority men in the construction industry, federal hiring goals for Alaska Natives, a state "Local Hire" law establishing hiring preference for residents of Alaska, and corporate affirmative action plans for women and minorities. I use archival records and original oral histories with pipeline employees to examine the methods government officials and agencies, corporations, trade unions, social movements, and nongovernmental organizations used to fulfill their visions of equality in employment on the 800-mile long, $8 billion pipeline project. I bridge the gender history of welfare with the history of civil rights in order to show how liberal ideals of economic citizenship in the late 1960s that prioritized creating male workers and breadwinners served as the foundational impetus for equal employment opportunity. I challenge the standard historical narrative of equal employment opportunity in the US, which has attributed affirmative action for women to a logical, if hard won, expansion of positive liberal rights first demanded by the black civil rights struggle, then legislated by the state and implemented by state bureaucrats and corporate personnel. What this narrative does not account for is how the gendered dimensions of liberalism underlying affirmative action for male minorities were able to so abruptly accommodate women as workers and economic citizens by the mid-1970s. I find that, over the course of construction of the pipeline, women in nontraditional jobs on the "Last Frontier" emerged as symbols of the success of equal employment opportunity and the legitimacy of American exceptionalism.
equal employment opportunity
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