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Protest Against Racist Attacks In Workplace

by Coalition For Justice & Human Rights Monday, Dec. 22, 2003 at 10:01 PM,, P.O.Box 15086 San Francisco, CA 94115

A protest is being organized against racist attacks on workers in San Francisco. There is a national epidemic of racist incidents in the workplace.

Stop Racist Harassment/Retaliation

At SF PUC S.E. Pollution Control Plant

Picket & Rally

Monday December 29, 2003 4:30 PM

San Francisco City Hall Steps

Polk St. Entrance

Despite continued racist attacks at the Hunter's Point/Bay View S.E. Pollution Control plant, the management at the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission continues to terrorize and harass Black workers.

IUOE Local 39 stationary engineer Carmi Johnson found "hanging nooses" in her workplace and was harassed out of the plant. The latest example is the case of IFPTE Local 21 Senior Chemist Anita Labossiere. Anita also faced racial harassment on the job and took a stress leave. She found "hanging nooses in her desk". When doctors said she could return to work, the city bosses called her doctors to pressure them to continue to prevent her from returning. When she recently received a doctor's certificate that it was ok to return to work she was first accepted back on the job and then turned away under a rule that said she was "violent".

This slander and harassment has to end. Behind this racist harassment and modern day segregation is the effort to privatize the workforce. SF City human resources director Andrea Guardine and PUC Personel Director Theresa Madden want to privatize and contract out all city jobs. Local 39 member Leticia Brown, IFPTE 21 member Anita Labossiere and IUOE Local 39 member Carmi Johnson have all testified at the PUC board board meetings about the workplace racism and terrorism but PUC Manager Pat Martell continues to cover-up this travesty and outrage. This has to stop NOW!

At the same time these managers are seeking to privatize the whole PUC system. Some city managers who are supporting privatization use this to intimidate city workers and hope to get payoffs from private contractors who take over the work from the city. In the mean time they want to destroy civil service so they can bring in their cronies and eliminate competent city workers.

We will also be having a free Town Hall Community/Labor Speakout on Saturday Feb 7, 2004 at the Green House at 11:00 AM 4919 3rd St./Palou St. San Francisco

We say no to these attacks.

Working For The City Is A Living Hell

PUC-SF Stop Covering Up Racism

Say No To Segregation, Prejudice and Bigotry

Stop Segregated Working Conditions

No More Hanging Nooses and Racist Firings

Stop Modern Day Segregation

Abolish Human Resources

No More Plantation Politics

Stop Privatization of Civil Service Jobs

Coalition For Justice and Human Rights

P.O.Box 15086

San Francisco, CA 94115,,

Initially Endorsed by

San Francisco Bay View

Campaign Against Taft-Hartley, Repression and Privatization

Labor Action Coalition

Peace And Freedom Labor Committee


Racism at Water Waste Plants

PUC to Investigate

by Roland Sheppard

On December 1, 2003, Anita Labossiere along with this reporter, expressed some of our concerns at the Public Utilities Commission (PUC), that overt Racism and "nooses" have raised their ugly head again in San Francisco. The following are excerpts from Anita’s statement to the PUC.

"I, Anita Labossiere, have been working for the San Francisco Water Pollution Control Bureau for over 23 years, as the only African American Supervising Chemist. In the City & County of San Francisco, there is a well organized plan to harass any minorities, minority supervisors and employees who supports us black cases, by the managers of the City.

"After I wrote the article in this newspaper, last August 'Dealing with Racism in the Water; Waste Plants,' I have been kept away from work by the managers at PUC. They are using every legal and illegal trick to keep me from returning to work from my personal leave.

'.... I should never have to work in this living HELL!!!!!!! "You are damned if you do and damned if don’t."

"The following poem explains my feelings, I feel like I am a strange fruit swingin' in the southern breeze:

'Strange fruits

Southern trees bear a strange fruit

Blood on the leaves and blood at the root

Black bodies swingin' in the southern breeze

Strange fruit hangin' from the poplar trees

Pastoral scene of the gallant south....'

"PUC Personnel have refused to allow me to return to work, I was on a leave of absence bought on by stress. There are many black employees throughout the City are going through what I am going through. My case is very typical of how Mayor Willie Brown has ignored all of the black employee’s concerns and even allowing them to be fired on trumped up charges — we have not gotten any help from Mayor Brown.

"The PUC needs to conduct an immediate and open investigation/hearing, of this Racism in the Water and Wastewater Plants."

We were both well received by the PUC and they agreed that it was an important matter. They stated, for the record, that they will investigate this intolerable situation within the Waste Water Plant.

But the truth of the matter is that the PUC's department managers have implemented "Sec. 120.22 Compulsory Sick Leave" in order to keep her from going back to work.

On December 15, 2003, she was forcibly removed from the job under this city rule, even though she was accepted back to work earlier in the day. An absent, so far unnamed, supervisor evoked rule "120.22.1."

In that section of the city rules it states that: "An appointing officer or designee who has reason to believe that an employee is not medically or physically competent to perform assigned duties, and if allowed to continue in employment or return from leave may represent a risk to coworkers, the public and the employee, may require the employee to present a medical report from a physician designated by the Human Resources Director certifying the employee's medical or physical competency to perform the required duties."

In fact, this rule was put in operation after Anita wrote her article for this newspaper on Racism in the Waste Water Plant and was already on stress leave due to the racist environment that is allowed to exist and fester at the plant.

Under this interpretation of the rules, the "appointing officer or designee" has the right to discriminate against any employee. Every employee who gets injured on the job, under this interpretation of the rules, could be prevented from returning to work.

In this case it is a another type of "noose" that is left dangling before every city worker. Especially those, as Anita, who have "blown the whistle" on Racism ect.. They even dare to begin to implement this policy in the heart of the last remaining Black Community in San Francisco!

Anita is a strong person and, so far, she is standing up to and enduring these attacks. If the Black Community stands up with her, she will win and all of San Francisco will gain.

On December 29, at 4:30 PM,a picket line will be held in front of City Hall to address this issue. All are being welcomed to raise their voice and attend.

We must remain ever vigilant so that a proper investigation is carried out and that the PUC does not just go “through the motions” of an investigation and that racism in city government is rooted out and punished. A "town meeting" on February 7, from 11AM-3PM will be held at the “Greenhouse” 4919 3rd St. (Palou and 3rd) to assist this investigation by the PUC and oppose racism in the city.

I want to thank the San Francisco BayView for letting me report on this issue helping to make all citizens aware of the Racism that is openly festering in the government of the City of San Francisco.

July 18, 2001

Lynching threats in Cleveland

by Richard D. Jones Sr.

Cleveland Life

Cleveland - A black construction worker is complaining that not only was he

threatened with being lynched by a white Broadview Heights man at a near

Westside construction worksite, his complaint to NAACP president George

Forbes fell on deaf ears.

Cleveland police detectives are investigating a claim by Garlin Farris, 38,

of Lakewood, that Anthony Sara, 38, threatened to lynch him.

Farris said he was taking pictures of what he believed were safety

violations at the worksite when he was approached by Sara. Farris said he

was shocked at the words that came from Sara’s mouth.

“Do you want to get strung up and get the shit beat out of you monkey?”

Farris accused Sara of saying.

Farris said he turned away and turned back and then saw another constructio=n

worker flip a noose over a steel beam after Sara’s threats were made. Farri=s

said the worker then looked down and laughed at him like it was a big joke.

“There was nothing funny about that,” Farris said. “The noose meant the sam=e

thing to me that the gas chambers meant to the Jews. That was the worst kin=d

of insult. Too many of my people died by that method.”

According to Farris, he and members of the Ohio and Vicinity Regional

Council of Carpenters were participating in an informational picket on June

29 at the Stonebridge development construction site below the Superior

Viaduct when things got ugly. The council of carpenters, along with members

of Carpenters Union Local 212, had been protesting what they claimed were

the payment of substandard wages to non-union workers employed by Steel

Construction, the prime contractor on a seven year development to put

upscale condominiums near the Flats.

A police incident report dated June 20 describes an incident where Sara was

accused of beating three union carpenters with “two-by-fours.”

Cleveland’s John Waspusch, 25, and Frank Vlasak, 31, along with Daniel

Landry, 38, of Westlake told police that sometime around 1 p.m. they were

arguing with Sara’s co-workers when he approached them from behind a fence

and said, “Okay guys, let’s go get them.”

The three men claim Sara then started swinging a two-by-four at them.

According to the report, all three men suffered swelling and bruises from

the beating.

Thomas Campbell, a witness and a maintenance worker at one of the completed

condominiums, told police he tried to act as a peacemaker during the fracas=..

In a photograph obtained by Cleveland Life, however, a man identified by

members of the carpenter’s union as Campbell is seen standing over a fallen

union member in what appears to be a threatening manner.

Farris said the attack was nothing new and was part of an ongoing pattern o=f

abuse and harassment from non-union workers at the construction site.

“They attacked us with two-by-fours and we defended ourselves,” Farris said=..

“Things happen when you have unions at job sites where non-union members ar=e

working. But threatening to lynch me crossed the line and it became a

personal issue.”

Steel Construction’s Anthony Sara told Cleveland Life that he did not

threaten Farris. He acknowledged, however, that he did take part in a

violent incident with other union members.

“Look, we did get into a fight with the other guy and I did have an argumen=t

with him, but I don’t have any clue what he (Farris) was talking about,”

Sara said. “This was not racial. This guy was blocking my men and throwing

rocks at them.”

Sara said no noose was hung across a steel beam after his argument with

Farris. He described the noose as a “harness” used to lift equipment and


“We use that rope all the time to move things around the job,” he said.

“This was not about race.”

Farris disagreed.

“It was clearly a noose,” he said. “This was not a harness ... that’s

garbage. How can he say it was not racial? Damn right it was racial.”

Another foreman, who asked the newspaper not to use his name, acknowledged

that racist comments were made by his men and that the rope was indeed a

noose. He characterized Sara’s actions and the actions of his other workers

as being borne of frustration and not racial animosity.

“I know something was said because I heard the reaction. I came over and sa=w

the rope hanging there,” the man said. “This is about a bunch of stupid guy=s

doing stupid things.”

The foreman accused the union members of provoking his men to violence and

said the “so-called” noose incident was “overblown.”

“You people are being used by the union people who want us to sign with the

union,” he said. “Please don’t make this about race. The last thing this

city needs is 300 black people marching outside this site.”

After the threats and the altercation, Farris said he contacted attorney

Avery Friedman and attorney George Forbes. Friedman told him to hold off on

contacting the news media. Instead, Farris said he decided to contact the


“I called the NAACP and asked that information be left for Gerald Henley,

but I never heard back from them,” Farris said. “I called Forbes’ law offic=e

and spoke with Lynn Austin. I told her I needed George’s help as president

of the NAACP.”

Farris said Austin asked him to bring his paperwork to the office to be

reviewed. He said she called him back and told me that it had been lost.

“It makes me wonder where are black people to go if they need help?” he


Cleveland Life contacted Gerald Henley at the NAACP for comment he told the

newspaper he had no knowledge of Farris’ plight and had “never heard of a

Garlin Farris.”

“This is a situation that would get a lot of attention around here, but I

don’t know anything about this,” Henley said. Forbes had a different view o=f

the case.

According to Forbes, the case had nothing to do with the NAACP.

“The case came through my law office and I reviewed the material and

determined that I didn’t want the case as a lawyer,” Forbes said. “The man’=s

attorney, Avery Freedman, didn’t want the case. Why in the hell should I

take it?”

When the newspaper told Forbes that Farris had sought his assistance as the

head of the NAACP, he remained unmoved.

“The case didn’t come to me as a f-----g NAACP case,” he said. “Just becaus=e

the language got rough and a noose was used, it’s not a civil rights case. =I

am not going to change my mind. I don’t want the case.”

Forbes described the case as a “labor” issue among black and white

picketers. The fact that the word “nigger” was used, he said, did not make

it a violation of law.

“I don’t give a shit if he was the only African-American picketer ... we ar=e

not taking the case,” he said.

George Edwards, president of the Black Trades Association, said his

organization would be glad to assist Farris if the NAACP believed his

complaint lacked merit.

“If George said this, then maybe we should be out picketing the NAACP and

maybe get his a-- out,” Edwards said.

Steel Construction owner Keith Allen said he is aware of the problems at th=e

construction site, but blamed them on extortion attempts by the union to ge=t

him to sign up. He said the problems were not about wages or safety.

“Look, they don’t have a clue as to what we pay our people,” Allen said.

“You know why? Because their business agents didn’t do due diligence. This

isn’t about wages, it is about me not signing in their union.”

Allen said the union has done everything it could to kill his business and

to force him to use union labor that may or may not be worth the premium.

“What am I, a bad contractor today and a good contractor tomorrow when I

sign with the union?” he asked. “I choose to use the best people, union or

non-union. The truth is their people are not worth an hour. I know

contractors who think their work is garbage, not as individuals, but as a

whole the union is garbage.”

Allen also claimed the carpenter’s union had been kicked out of the America=n

Federation of Labor (AFL-CIO) because of poor quality work and bad business


“They could have worked on this job,” he said. “They had the opportunity to

bid this project but their business agents are lazy and don’t represent the

members well.”

Cleveland AFL-CIO president John Ryan said Allen was wrong about the

carpenter’s union and Local 212 being expelled from his organization.

“On the national level, the carpenters wanted to resign from the AFL-CIO du=e

to internal politics,” Ryan said. “Locally we still support them. I don’t

know where he got that from.”

Ryan said he was horrified by Sara’s tactics and vowed to investigate the


“We will not tolerate attacks, racial or otherwise, against union or

non-union members,” he said. “Any type of attack on our members will be met

with the full wrath of working people all over the world.”

Reprinted with permission from Cleveland Life, Ohio’s largest urban

newspaper. Email

July 10, 2000 New York Times

Nooses, Symbols of Race Hatred, at Center of Workplace Lawsuits



Kim Kulish for The New York Times

Harold Archuleta, above, a former mechanic for American Airlines, said that before he left the company, he saw three nooses displayed at the Los Angeles Airport maintenance facility. Joe Banks, a Lockheed employee, says a noose was placed in his work area last summer.

Ralph Nelson for The New York Times


Symbols of Lynching

The government's Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which has received dozens of complaints lately about threats to blacks and other members of minority groups involving the display of nooses in the

workplace, has brought racial harassment lawsuits against about 20 companies where nooses were believed to be involved. Nine are currently pending. One is confidential. Here is information on the other eight.


E.E.O.C. v. Sara Lee Corp.

The agency says that a black employee at a knit products factory once owned by Sara Lee saw a noose attached to a toolbox. But according to Peggy Carter, a Sara Lee spokeswoman, company records show that the noose was found in a room that is used to rebuild the factory's gear boxes, and may have been related to a cowboy movie that some employees had seen. Both sides agree that a company manager soon took the noose down.

E.E.O.C. v. Crowder Construction Company

A supervisor approached a black employee holding a noose, and said, according to the suit, "this is what we used to do to you." Philip Van Hoy, a lawyer who represents Crowder, disputed the charge, saying that

the supervisor had actually approached a crew of employees to give them instructions about rigging construction equipment with a noose.


E.E.O.C. v. Scientific Colors

The E.E.O.C. says that on at least two occasions a noose was hung from a factory pipe in an area heavily used by black employees at the company, which manufactures ink in Rockdale, Ill. The agency also says that a small string noose was hung inside an employee's locker, and that nooses were drawn around a picture of the employee's son and his friend. Dan Kinsella, a lawyer who is representing the company, said that police promptly investigated the incidents, but that no suspects were found. He also said there was no evidence establishing that the incidents were racially motivated.


E.E.O.C. v. Northwest Airlines

A black employee says that a noose was hung in an employee lunchroom. In its court papers, Northwest disputed the charge, saying it learned of the noose incident only after the employee had been denied a promotion and after she had already gone to the agency.


E.E.O.C. v. Asplundh Tree Expert Company

According to the E.E.O.C., a black employee in Gainesville, Fla., says that a noose was wrapped around his neck and then pulled. Asplundh said it had no comment on the suit.

E.E.O.C. v. Sun AGBlack employees for the company, a citrus grower in Fellsmere, Fla., say that a noose was displayed over a lengthy period of time in a stockroom. Mark Sanchez, general manager for the company, said "we don't think the behavior occurred."

E.E.O.C. v. Sanctuary Golf Club

A black employee at the course, based in Sanibel, Fla., says that several co-workers held a noose and asked him whether he wanted to go for a ride. Art Cassell, a member of the club's board, said that the suit was completely without merit.


E.E.O.C. v. Northwest Airlines

A Filipino employee says he found a noose in his locker after he complained that he had been harassed because of his national origin. Northwest said it could not comment on the suit because it was still in litigation.Gloria Hamilton never saw a double-looped noose hanging on her door in

1992. Friends at the Detroit cargo facility where she worked as a service manager for Northwest Airlines took the noose down before she came to work that day, she said, so that she would not be upset seeing it.

Three years later, however, Ms. Hamilton, who is black, was alerted to a knotted noose in an employee lunchroom. This time she took the noose down -- after first taking a picture of it -- and then complained to a higher manager. The company is challenging Ms. Hamilton's account, and says that there is no evidence that the piece of rope she found was intended to intimidate any employee because of race or sex.

That's not the way Ms. Hamilton sees it. "I'm old enough to remember Emmett Till," she said, referring to the 1955 lynching of a black teenager from Chicago who was accused of whistling at a white woman

while visiting relatives in Mississippi.

The hangman's noose has long been one of the most frightening representations of racial harassment in America, a reminder that thousands of black people died at the hands of lynch mobs from the end

of the Civil War well into the 20th century. But while the symbolic use of a noose has traditionally been associated with hate groups like the Ku Klux Klan, employment experts say that nooses, although still are, are increasingly turning up in ordinary workplaces. And noose incidents are affecting not just black employees, but also those of Asian, Hispanic and Native American descent.

Many companies still prefer to settle such cases out of court, but officials at the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission say they have at least 20 noose-related lawsuits pending or recently resolved.. For an agency that files only a few hundred lawsuits a year, they add, that is a disproportionately high number.

And the agency says it is currently examining dozens of other allegations involving nooses from around the country.

In most cases, officials say, a noose was placed anonymously on an employee's chair, in a locker, or on a door. But the Miami office of the equal employment opportunity commission is currently pursuing a lawsuit on behalf of a black employee, who, it says, had a noose wrapped around his neck, which was then pulled, while he was working for a Florida office of the Asplundh Tree Expert Company. The company, which is based in Willow Grove, Pa., said it had no comment on the suit.

No one is sure why reports of such racial incidents have risen lately.. Some employment lawyers see it as reflecting intolerance among certain younger workers who do not remember the civil rights struggles of the 1950's and 1960's. The incidents, experts say, also might reflect resentment among some whites over affirmative action in diverse workplaces where blacks and other minorities were often excluded in the past.

At the same time, says Ida L. Castro, the chairwoman of the equal employment agency, the increase in court cases might also be due to a growing defensiveness on the part of some employers, who sometimes treat them "almost flippantly."

"What I see as alarming is not just that employers are now fighting us in courts," she said, "but that they're also making statements implying that such incidents are just horseplay."

Indeed, a recent exhibit of photographs -- many once used as postcards -- of white participants in lynchings and their lifeless victims only reminded viewers of why nooses are such an incendiary emblem of America's not-so-distant past.

Nor are noose incidents confined to one region of the country.

Jeff Lanza, a special agent for the Federal Bureau of Investigation in Kansas City, Mo., says his office is investigating two cases of nooses left in workplaces. The regional office of the equal employment agency in Charlotte, N.C., has three racial harassment lawsuits pending where nooses were said to be involved.

The Miami office has an equal number, including one in which a Sanibel Island, Fla., country club has been charged with failing to act against several workers accused of holding up a hangman's noose to a black groundskeeper before asking him whether he wanted "to go for a ride." Art Cassell, a member of the board of governors of the Sanctuary Golf Club in Sanibel, said the suit was "completely without merit.."

The Dallas office of the commission is investigating four such cases. In Detroit, the agency is continuing to pursue a lawsuit on behalf of Ms. Hamilton. And the agency has one current lawsuit in California.

Still, the cases the equal employment office is pursuing may represent only the tip of a workplace iceberg. The agency handles just a small fraction of the thousands of lawsuits that are filed privately between employees and employers each year.

Employment lawyers say that it is impossible to say how many of those cases involve noose incidents. But David Bennet Ross, a managing partner at Seyfarth Shaw, a law firm based in Chicago that represents employers, thinks they "happen with surprising frequency."

Mr. Ross said he could think of only one noose-related lawsuit in which a court had found that an employee had fabricated the claim, in order to collect money.

"They're a sign," he said, "that something serious is going on in the


Employment lawyers say that incidents involving nooses are now appearing

at large and small companies alike.

Mr. Lanza, the Kansas City F.B.I. agent, said that until recently cross burnings seemed to be the "hate crime of choice," in his area, but that noose incidents are now appearing instead.

"I've been here 12 years and I can't remember any other noose cases that preceded the two we now have," Mr. Lanza said. The Justice Department considers noose incidents to be federal crimes of intimidation, punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

Over all, racial harassment charges have surged over the last two decades, with the E.E.O.C. reporting that it received close to 50,000 such charges during the 1990's, versus roughly 10,000 in the 1980's.

The agency considers noose incidents to be among the most egregious

forms of racial harassment.

Yet some employees say they have lost their jobs after speaking out against racial harassment incidents like the display of nooses.

In January, Harold H. Archuleta, a former mechanic for American Airlines, filed a lawsuit against the company charging that he had been wrongfully fired for complaining about aircraft safety violations, and also for supporting the racial harassment and discrimination claims of another American employee, Charles L. Walker.

In his court papers, Mr. Archuleta, who is Native American, said that his superiors at American took no steps to prevent, among other things, the "prominent" display of nooses at the airline's maintenance facility at Los Angeles International Airport.

During the two or three years before he left American in May 1998, Mr. Archuleta said he saw three nooses displayed at the maintenance facility: one in the area where the company gave out time cards, another in front of a production control office and a third carried by Mr. Walker, as he was on his way to complain about it to his managers.

Each time he saw a noose at his workplace, Mr. Archuleta recalled recently, he "couldn't believe it was happening."

Tim Kincaid, a spokesman for American, a unit of the AMR Corporation, said that the airline settled Mr. Walker's case out of court last fall. As for Mr. Archuleta's suit, Mr. Kincaid said that a company investigation found no evidence of racial harassment at the Los Angeles facility, and that Mr. Archuleta's claims were simply an effort to "mask

his own misconduct." According to American, Mr. Archuleta was fired for failing to remove outdated life vests from certain airplanes, a charge that he denies.

At Lockheed Martin, the military contractor, seven current and former hourly employees at its plant in Marietta, Ga., filed a lawsuit in Atlanta in May charging that the company had excluded them from its promotion process. They also stated that Lockheed Martin management had ignored -- or conducted only a cursory investigation of -- numerous

racial harassment incidents, including some involving the display of nooses. In the suit, Joseph Banks, a Lockheed employee who still works for the company, said a hangman's noose was placed in his work area last summer.

Mr. Banks took his complaint about the noose to the equal employment commission in October last year. On the same day, another Lockheed employee, Ted Gignilliat, who had earlier accused the company of discriminating against him because he is disabled, also filed a complaint that he had received threats after witnessing a noose at the company.

Mr. Gignilliat says that he has seen roughly a half-dozen nooses displayed during his tenure with Lockheed, and that the two most recent incidents occurred during the spring of 1999. He says that he reported the most recent incident last September to Lockheed's human resources department, but that his effort received no response, as did another a month later to the security department.

Mr. Gignilliat said he was spurred to act, in part, after Lockheed managers issued memos in August stating that the company thoroughly investigated all harassment and discrimination claims.

Sam Grizzle, a Lockheed spokesman, said that the noose Mr. Gignilliat reported last fall was already under investigation and that the =company was not aware that he had ever reported any other incidents.

Meanwhile, in a response last month to the May lawsuit, Lockheed denied the employees' charges. In its court papers, Lockheed acknowledged that a rope tied in the shape of a noose had been found in Mr. Banks' department, but said the rope was not in his work area. The company, which declined to comment more specifically because of the litigation, stated that it had investigated the incident "immediately and thoroughly," but had not been able to determine who had left the noose.

Mr. Ross, the employment lawyer, said he advises companies that have received a complaint of racial harassment to investigate immediately. But unlike many other harassment cases, it is usually difficult to identify the culprits because most nooses are left anonymously.

In the case involving Ms. Hamilton, Northwest Airlines, in its court papers, said that it learned of the noose incident only after Ms. Hamilton had been denied a promotion, and after she had gone to the equal employment agency to complain about racial and sexual harassment at the company. Ms. Hamilton said that she had indeed notified the company when the incident occurred.

The company also argued that the noose that Ms. Hamilton found was simply a piece of rope, and that there was no evidence it was directed against her or any member of a minority group.

The equal employment agency's suit against Northwest involving Ms. Hamilton and some other employees at its Detroit cargo facility has yet to be resolved.

Meanwhile, in January the agency's San Francisco office also filed a noose-related lawsuit against Northwest. It charged that employees at the airline's maintenance department at San Francisco Airport subjected a Filipino mechanic, Marcel Espiritu, to almost five years of racial harassment. After Mr. Espiritu filed his accusation with the federal agency, officials say, he found a noose hanging in his locker, along with a note that read "get Marcel."

William R. Tamayo, a regional attorney for the equal employment agency, says that Northwest Airlines never did enough to investigate the incident. In response to both cases, Kathy Peach, a spokeswoman for Northwest, said that it was company policy not to comment on lawsuits in litigation. "We believe that it is dangerous to draw conclusions before the legal process has been fully completed," she said.

As for Ms. Hamilton, the noose she found in 1995 still haunts her. Last fall, while attending a work-related conference in Minneapolis, she ran into a Northwest vice president, who showed her a newspaper article on the lawsuit and then expressed surprise that she still worked for the airline.

Shaken, Ms. Hamilton went back to her hotel room, only to discover while packing that she had unwittingly hidden the noose at the bottom of her garment bag.

"It was like getting a double whammy," she recalled. "I need to find =a

better place to put it."

Racism remains part of workplace

EEOC chairwoman sees disturbing trend of 'hangman's noose' harassment cases..

By Gregory Weaver

Indianapolis Star January 14, 2001

It started with racially derogatory graffiti on the walls of a workplace toilet stall.It escalated to hangman’s nooses— one dangled in front of his faceand another encircling his name on a welding machine.

To Tyrone Neal, a black construction worker from Indianapolis, the message was clear."Someone or several someones didn’t want me working there," Neal said. "So they left this symbol of death, this terrible thing that killed so many of my people in slavery." Sound like something out of the 1950s? It happened in 1997 at an Indianapolis construction site supervised by California-based D.W. Nicholson Corp. And similar cases are being reported across the country.

In the Neal case, federal investigators determined that the company did little to respond to his complaints of harassment. Ultimately, it paid ,000 to Neal to settle his legal claims.

While Neal expresses relief that his ordeal is over, he shudders when he explains that other black Americans are still being taunted with roped symbols of death. It’s happening so often that the Clinton-appointed chairwoman of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission essentially declared war on the tactic at last summer’s NAACP national convention and on employers who cavalierly consider nooses as insensitive jokes, not racial harassment. "The commission will vigorously prosecute employers who tolerate the intolerable through their indifference to racial slurs, the presence of hangman’s nooses or similar acts of harassment at the workplace," said EEOC chairwoman Ida Castro. In the past three years, the EEOC has filed more than 20 harassment lawsuits nationwide involving nooses—including the Neal case—and is investigating dozens of others. EEOC officials say that number is unbelievably high, considering the agency only files about 200 lawsuits a year. Castro called it a "disturbing" national trend. Overall, charges of racial harassment filed with the EEOC have increased five-fold—from 9,757 in the 1980s to 47,157 in the 1990s. The agency’s Indianapolis district, which covers Indiana and Kentucky, also has seen an increase—from 472 complaints during the first half of

the 1990s to 1,100 during the last half of the decade. Among all those claims, the ones that cause the most shock and dismay are those involving nooses—a lingering symbol of the 3,426 black Americans who were lynched between 1882 and 1947. "When you see one of these nooses, it’s chilling," said Jo Ann Farnsworth, the EEOC attorney who handled the Neal case. "What it says to me is that we haven’t come as far as a society as we would like to think we have," she added.

"While African-Americans and other minorities have a greater presence in the work force of the 21st century, they are still subject to the most vile forms of harassment." Why is this painful reminder of our repulsive past re-emerging with some frequency in the workplace?

Civil rights activists and workplace consultants think it’s a white backlash against perceived affirmative action gains made by minorities in recent years. Others view the increased reports as a sign that minorities are gaining faith that the government will stop overt acts of racism if they are exposed. "People are more willing to lash out against minorities at work because corporations have been lulled into believing racial intimidation has evaporated since the 1960s, and they’re not as vigilant as they used to be," said Roderick Bohannan, president of the Indianapolis chapter of the NAACP. He said his organization has received four complaints about workplace nooses in the past three years. One involved the Neal case. Just five years ago, about 20 Federal Aviation Administration employees at Indianapolis International Airport were reassigned or otherwise disciplined after some black workers reported a hangman’s noose in the control tower and the threat of a lynching. J. William Smedley, a psychologist and consultant on multiculturalism, believes nooses and other overt forms of racism have been around for years but are being reported more frequently. "I don’t think you are seeing a resurgence," he said. "What you have are persons of color who are more willing to come forward."

Jan Michelsen, an employment lawyer with Baker & Daniels, said most employers are more vigilant today in responding to allegations of racial or sexual harassment because they are keenly aware of the financial consequences of inaction. Neal’s case is like many others pursued by the EEOC. Most occur in blue-collar settings, particularly construction sites. And much of the harassment begins with graffiti or racial slurs.

Neal decided to take the issue on in the fall of 1997 as increasingly offensive graffiti began showing up in portable toilets at a construction site for the expansion of the Federal Express facility at the airport. Neal, a union ironworker, was one of only a few black workers among the hundreds hired to do work for D.W. Nicholson Corp.., a lead contractor on the project. He said the racial disparity began to show as these messages cropped up in bathroom stalls:

"The eyes of the Ku Klux Klan are watching you." "The only thing missing at the

Million Man March was an auctioneer, three miles of chain and a rope." But the graffiti got even worse. One passage called into question his very origin and God’s will for blacks. "That last one was the one that cut my heart out," recalled Neal, a 39-year-old father of four. "When I saw that one, I knew I had to do something about it." When he raised the issue with D.W. Nicholson supervisors, he didn’t quite get the reaction he had hoped for. "They asked me how I knew this stuff was directed at me?" Neal said."I said, ‘Well, look around. How many other black guys do you see out here? Who else do you think it could be directed at?’ " Officials at D.W. Nicholson declined to comment for this story or respond directly to Neal’s allegations, referring all questions to the written settlement agreement. Neal said that as word spread of his complaints about the graffiti, he soon encountered more objectionable behavior.

As he worked on the ground floor of the construction site, someone on a beam high above him dropped a hangman’s noose directly in front of his face. "I couldn’t see who did it, so I just gave them the finger and went on about my business." Again, he told supervisors. The nextday he was greeted by another noose. This one was left on his welder so that the loop of the noose encircled a label bearing his name. Neal went to his supervisors again and said they told him that whoever was responsible for the nooses would be fired.

When that didn’t happen, Neal took his case to the EEOC. After nearly two years of legal wrangling, Neal received a ,000 settlement. "To some people, that’s a lot of money, I know," Neal said. "But look at what I had to go through to get ,000. I wouldn’t wish that on no one and still it’s happening all across the country."

Contact Gregory Weaver at (317)

444-6415 or via e-mail at

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