Black Workers File Charges Over Racial Discrimination At Siemens Plant
This made our blood boil. We had to share it with you.
Welder Solomon Daniels had just grabbed his work clothes from his locker at the Siemens plant near Trenton when, he said, he saw the noose out of the corner of his eye, swinging from the shower curtain rod.
“I was more or less terrified,” said Daniels, 48, an African American man who lives in Burlington. Horrified by the noose, which evokes lynchings, Daniels looked twice to make sure, then called a coworker into the locker room to witness it. He took pictures.
That was Jan. 27. On Friday, Daniels and two other African American employees at Siemens Demag Delaval Turbomachinery Inc. talked to reporters about what they called a factory floor culture of racism and harassment in which African Americans couldn’t get promoted and complaints to the human resources department went nowhere.
Represented by lawyer Brian K. Wiley in North Wales, the men have filed complaints with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the New Jersey Division of Civil Rights.
“When I first started there, the n-word was like your first name,” said Barry Murphy, 64, of Willingboro.
Employed at Siemens since 1966, Murphy, a machinist, wept Friday, saying he came forward so younger black workers wouldn’t have to experience the discrimination he faced. He said there hasn’t been an African American supervisor since the 1980s.
“The placement of a noose in a Siemens facility is a deplorable, aggressive act,” Siemens said in a statement, adding that it had hired outside investigators to look into the situation at its plant in Hamilton Township.
“Siemens condemns such behavior in the strongest terms,” the statement continued. Siemens said it retrained all personnel in company policies against harassment and discrimination and enclosed copies of the policies in employees’ paychecks.
However, the company said that, after reviewing surveillance video and interviewing employees, it could not determine who hung the noose. Daniels said he was asked whether he himself had hung it.
“I think that [question] is normal where the work environment is primarily white,” he said. “At the same time, it was hurtful.” He said he told officials he would be willing to take a polygraph test.
For machinist Eddie Clarke, 48, of Hatfield, the harassment went beyond the symbolic and annoying to physically threatening.
On Feb. 21, 2010, he said, he was coming around the corner, heading toward his tool cabinet, when a metal shank sliced through his pant legs and cut his leg. “I had to pull the metal from my leg,” Clarke wrote in a sworn affidavit. Someone had rigged a metal shank to his tool cabinet in an area where he was the only person working.
At the news conference, Clarke said that before the incident he had complained to top company officials about harassment. His supervisor warned him to stop complaining or he’d be the victim of “friendly fire,” Clarke said.
All three men, who are still employed, said they loved their jobs but feared for their safety at work.
“We have been in contact with federal, state and local authorities,” said Siemens spokeswoman Camille Johnston. She declined to say whether the supervisor had been disciplined. “The company is responding to the EEOC charges as appropriate.”
SMH. This is just unacceptable. They rigged the man’s area so he would be shanked??? And it’s not in this report, but another report says the supervisor who warned about “friendly fire” later told dude “I’m surprised you’re still alive.”