General Motors sued after HR ignored horrific racist incidents

General Motors sued after HR ignored horrific racist incidents

Nine African-American workers at a General Motors (GM) plant in the US are suing their employer after alleging that a number of disturbing racists incidents went unpunished by the firm’s HR department, the Detroit Free Press reports.

Black workers at the Ohio plant reported that they discovered ‘Whites Only” and swastika graffiti in their toilets, were called racial slurs and told to go back to Africa.

White workers wore shirts under their coveralls with visible Nazi symbols on them, and black employees were told to be careful because a white employee's "daddy was in the Ku Klan Klan."

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In one shocking incident, GM factory worker Mark Edwards discovered a noose had been tied by his work station – a symbol that represents lynching.

“That rope took me right back," Edwards told the Free Press. "I thought of my whole childhood again, being afraid and having to know I had to be strong.” He added that in 1968, his then-19-year-old brother was tied up by rope and beaten in a racially motivated attack, leaving him brain-damaged. "I was startled, really startled by it," he said.

"I couldn’t believe someone did that. I couldn’t understand who in my work area disliked me that much or had that much hatred to hang a noose by my job."

Black workers were also not the only targets – a white woman running for a union office was dating a black man. Her election posters throughout the plant were, "defaced with racial slurs and drawings of black penises," the lawsuit said. 

When this behaviour was reported to Human Resources, nothing was done. UAW (the United Automobile Workers Union) local President Ray Wood said he met with the plant's human resources' director and plant manager on "how to move forward,” but his suggestions "fell on deaf ears".

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The nine employees are seeking compensation for lost wages and mental pain.

GM said it treats "any reported incident with sensitivity and urgency, and (is) committed to providing an environment that is safe, open and inclusive."

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