General Motors is facing a lawsuit in federal court that alleges they failed to address rampant racism at its Toledo transmission plant. “Whites only” signs hung on bathrooms and black workers routinely had racist slurs thrown at them. Arguably worst of all are the nooses left hanging around the plant on numerous occasions according to the lawsuit.
The Detroit Free Press was the first paper to report on the lawsuit. That article said there was a failure to take corrective actions for these atrocities that resulted in a toxic atmosphere allowing hate-driven employees feel comfortable enough to hang nooses and otherwise assault their black co-workers verbally and through racist graffiti.
Mark Edwards, one of the workers at the plant, told the Free Press about an event over a year ago. Coming into work, he found a noose hanging by his workstation.
Edwards has worked for GM in a variety of plants ever since 1977 during which he reports a variety of racial slurs and harassment from years of coworkers. The incident from last year, however, startled Edwards who took a picture of the offending addition to his workspace. He couldn’t believe someone in his work area disliked him so much they were driven to make this statement towards him. Edwards reported each incident to his union managers, but management did nothing to end these racist attacks.
The noose, understandably a lot for anyone, was especially painful for Edwards. Back in 1968, his brother then-19-years-old, underwent a traumatic experience involving rope from a racially motivated attack that left him brain-damaged.
General Motors Responds to Lawsuit But Attempts To Quell Racism Haven’t Seemed To Work
In the lawsuit, it mentions that white employees often referred to their black co-workers as “boy.” That along with the swastikas painted on restroom stalls made for an uncomfortable atmosphere for many. There was even a mention of one white supervisor asking what the big deal was with the nooses during a meeting. He added that there wasn’t any lynching in the past that people didn’t deserve.
In response to the Free Press, General Motors stated that it treats any incident reported with urgency and sensitivity. GM says they try to work towards a safe environment that is open and inclusive.
However, GM did confirm the existence of nooses hung in some workspaces according to the Free Press.
GM states that it worked with union leaders through a memo back in April of 2017. The notice referenced an incident claiming it was offensive to all employees. The conflict in question was, in fact, the noose by Edward’s work area.
The automaker claims it conducted and reinforced its zero-tolerance policy. However, it didn’t seem to be enough to correct this toxic atmosphere.
Kenny Taylor is another GM employee working there since the 70s. Both Taylor and Edwards are too young to retire with bills to pay. So they both make their long commutes to the plant for work. It’s tough working there in light of the lawsuit, and Taylor has even put in to transfer to another plant.
Taylor says whenever he gets off the exit on his way to work, he wonders what the day will hold. The tension is palpable even the parking lot thanks to the array of Confederate flags on the license plates.