Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Sweet home Alabama

The sun shines bright in the old Kentucky home,
’Tis summer, the darkies are gay,

Food conglomerate Tyson Foods has been sued by the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law on behalf of workers at Tyson Food's Ashland, Alabama chicken processing plant for maintaining a Whites Only break room and rest room.

From the press release:
A lawsuit filed today alleges that Tyson Foods, Inc. is responsible for maintaining a segregated bathroom and break room, reminiscent of the Jim Crow era, in its Ashland, Alabama chicken processing plant. Twelve African-American employees filed a complaint in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Alabama, alleging that a “Whites Only” sign and a padlock denied them access to a bathroom in the Ashland plant. The complaint states that numerous white employees had keys to the bathroom that were not provided to African-American workers.

The African-American employees’ complaint also alleges that, after they complained about the segregated bathroom, the plant manager told them that the bathroom had been locked because they were “dirty” and announced the closing of the break room. According to the complaint, the same white employees who had keys to the “Whites Only” bathroom formed their own, private break room, using Tyson materials to construct the furniture. Initially, a locked door segregated the private break room. To the present day, locked cabinets and a locked refrigerator maintain a private break room.

Remarkable in this day and age (yeah, right), the blatant racism that continues to find a home in America.

Lest we think that the Lawyer's Committee is some radical group, here's some of their background:
The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law was created at the request of President John F. Kennedy in the summer of 1963 following a meeting of 244 lawyers in the East Room of the White House. President Kennedy, Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson and Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy spoke at the conference and urged the lawyers to use their training and influence to move the struggle for the protection of civil rights from the streets to the courts. The 244 lawyers who attended were from throughout the United States and included, leaders of state bars and the ABA, and 50 African American lawyers. President Kennedy had held similar meetings with representatives of business, education, and the clergy, but the decision to call a meeting with the lawyers and the timing of the meeting was born of a sense of urgency about the absence of the organized bar in the civil rights movement.

Of course boycotts are mostly meaningless, although in the case of the Grocery Worker's Strike here in Los Angeles last year, the resulting loss of business clearly hurt Ralph's, Von's, & Albertson's. Pam and I haven't gone into any of these stores since, and shop at a small local chain of 5 stores called Hows Markets, which supported a union contract and hired displaced workers from the mega-chains.

Tomorrow I'll talk to them, and see if they might consider not buying food from Tyson. Just a week or so ago, Pam asked them to get Light Limeade & Light Lemonade and sure enough, the very next week they showed up on the shelves. So it appears these folks are open to reason and suggestion.

It may not make any long term difference, but I urge all readers and bloggers to boycott any Tyson Products. Think about buying something produced under these conditions.


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