Focusing on the automobile industry in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, this article demonstrates how Ford Motor Company and General Motors challenged apartheid through adherence to the Sullivan Principles, while maintaining cordial relations with the capitalist South African government in the late-apartheid period. Designed to promote desegregation of the workplace and equal pay for equal work, the Sullivan Principles were a controversial code of conduct for US subsidiaries operating in apartheid South Africa. Leon Sullivan, an African American civil rights leader, unveiled the Principles in March 1977 with the support of US multinationals, including both Ford and GM. Drawing on archival sources from both the United States and South Africa, the author traces how these American multinational corporations did not sufficiently allay their workers' most pressing concerns, nor did they firmly challenge the South African government. The Principles’ shortcomings underscore the disconnect between the anti-apartheid movement’s calls for revolutionary transformation and the American business community’s focus on evolutionary change, thus highlighting the tensions between international capital and South Africa’s racialized labor relations.
People Before Profit?: Ford, General Motors & the Spirit of the Sullivan Principles in Apartheid South Africa (1976–84)
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Mattie C. Webb; People Before Profit?: Ford, General Motors & the Spirit of the Sullivan Principles in Apartheid South Africa (1976–84). Ethnic Studies Review 1 October 2021; 44 (3): 64–87. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/esr.2021.44.3.64
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