The Equal Employment Opportunity/Affirmative Action community has suffered a terrible loss with the passing of José Franco last week-end. I offer this eulogy for not only to remember José, but also to convey the magnitude of this loss to those who did not have the privilege to know him.
José was the consummate advocate for civil rights, who worked tirelessly to eradicate workplace discrimination against women, minorities, veterans and the disabled and many of us looked to him as a mentor and role model. Jose was born in Brooklyn to a Spanish immigrant father and a coal miner’s daughter. In New York City he was considered a gifted student. That changed, and José experienced the effects of discrimination for the first time when in fifth grade he moved with his family to Arizona, where his teacher’s perception of him as Mexican and therefore less capable of learning rendered him a barely passable student. Only after a fresh start in another school, where he registered as “Joseph” did his grades once again reflect his superior abilities. Conversely, José also experienced the benefits of Affirmative Action when he was recruited by and admitted to Duke University and went on to earn his Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science in 1972. From that time on, as Jose described it, he was “baptized into the civil rights movement”.
From 1972 until 2001, José worked for the office that eventually became known as the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP), working his way up to Regional Director of Operations of the OFCCP’s San Francisco office. In his almost 30 years working for the OFCCP, Jose functioned as a training coordinator, technical expert on operating procedures and policies, conducted countless compliance reviews and investigating complaints of employment discrimination by federal contractors. Jose also became involved in enforcing the requirements of Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act and the Vietnam Era Veterans Readjustment Assistance Act and numerous investigations of complaints of discrimination based on race, religion, national origin, sex, veteran status and disability, and several precedent-setting systemic discrimination cases.
Although José retired from the OFCCP in 2001, his work on behalf of the EEO/AA community never stopped. Jose became an EEO Consultant. In fact he was known as the EEO Doctor, working with federal contractors to design, implement and update administrator-friendly affirmative action programs, and assisting them in responding to external audits and investigations of their personnel practices. José was elected and set to serve as a member of the American Association for Access Equity and Diversity’s (AAAED)’s nominating and elections committee for the coming 2016-2018 term. I for one will mourn the loss of the opportunity to serve with him in that capacity on the AAAED. I also know that these accomplishments, impressive as they are, do not begin to describe the extent and depth of what José gave the EEO/AA community and the unbelievable void now created by his passing. It will take many of us together to even begin to fill his shoes.