A new report from the San Francisco Chronicle documents a culture of racial abuse and harassment at construction sites in the area.
Leroi Bowie, a Black construction worker in Oakland, recalled finding a noose placed near his work station in 2019. Bowie said that he reported the matter to his employers, Mitsubishi Electric U.S., but was merely dismissed.
“I’ve only worked for two companies, and at both companies I received a noose,” Bowie said.
Bowie is not the only Black employee at Mitsubishi Electric U.S. to report such a thing. Dating back to 2016, Craig Martin, Gabriel Ross and Lavell Roberson have all reported experiencing racial abuse while working for the company. As a result, the four men are now suing the company. In the lawsuit, the group alleges that supervisors referred to them as "undesirables," "dumb N-words" and "lazy." They also report being subjected to racist imagery such as swastikas, KKK markings and black monkeys. Adding on, the lawsuit also recalls instances in which supervisors made racially insensitive jokes.
“How do you get a Black guy out of a tree? Cut the rope," one supervisor allegedly said.
Recently, Mitsubishi Electric U.S. has issued a statement condemning acts of racism and discrimination like those mentioned in the lawsuit.
“The company previously investigated all complaints these employees raised to the company and took prompt action as appropriate,” Mitsubishi Electric U.S. Chief Operating Officer Michael Corbo said.
“The company cannot comment on the specifics of this matter due to employee privacy rights.”
Despite Corbo's comments, the four construction workers refute the claim that the company took prompt action. After reporting incidents of discrimination, the men say they were relegated to menial tasks such as sweeping floors.
“Based on this case, it’s clear to me that Mitsubishi really has a problem and they just haven’t addressed it in any kind of way that’s designed to stop it from continuing," Attorney Larry Organ said.
While the lawsuit is being funneled through the court system, the four men continue to work for the company. By continuing to work through these difficult instances while demanding justice, the hope is that they can bring change to the industry.
“It’s just time for white America to just open a door to equality and stop the prejudiced nature towards minorities for — I don’t even know why you hate somebody because they don’t look like you,” Bowie declared.
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