Black Employees Accuse UPS of Racism at Work

Nineteen workers at a UPS distribution center in Ohio have sued the parcel service company and five managers on Wednesday, citing that UPS allowed racist symbols such as a noose and Confederate flags in its distribution center in Maumee, nearly 10 miles southwest of Toledo.

According to the lawsuit, UPS managers and supervisors enabled and encouraged racial slurs made at Black employees in 2016. CNN reported that a monkey doll dressed as a UPS employee was placed in the facility and the n-word was repeatedly used.

A white employee once said that he “was late for a Klan meeting.” Text message exchanged among co-workers about potential lottery winnings read, “If you feel down and out, the noose is loose,” or “Can we buy another noose with the winnings?” The employees who filed suit have served at the parcel service for decades and said they felt “fear, anger and disgust” about UPS’ lack of action regarding this matter. The lawsuit indicated that employees had reported the issue to management, which did not take any disciplinary action.

Keith Wiggins, a UPS retiree, told Toledo Blade that he had seen the first noose in the 1980s. He told the publication that he joined the lawsuit to end racism at his former employer. “I’m determined to see that other Blacks coming into the company will not see what I have seen,” he told the publication. “It could be better. It should be better.” When asked for commentary about the lawsuit, UPS Director of Corporate Media Relations Glenn Zaccara told CNN on Wednesday that “UPS promptly investigated and took swift disciplinary action against those found to have engaged in inappropriate actions, including the discharge of two employees.”

Zaccara later added, “When an incident is reported, UPS takes the matter seriously, thoroughly investigates and takes appropriate disciplinary action against those found responsible for misconduct.”

The lawsuit also stressed other forms of racial discrimination within UPS. “African American employees are disproportionately employed by UPS in lower paying, strenuous, menial, part-time, or seasonal positions and systematically denied opportunities for higher paying, full-time, and supervisory positions,” lawyers representing the Black workers said in the lawsuit.

In addition to curbing discrimination, the lawsuit is seeking $25,000 in damages, the Associated Press reported on Thursday. A similar case took place at a General Motors plant in Toledo, Ohio. Nine employees filed a lawsuit against the company, arguing that a “whites only” sign was hung outside a bathroom and nooses were placed in other areas. It also added that an “underlying atmosphere of violent racial hate and bullying” took place at the factory.

The incidents were reported to upper management, which has a history of protecting white employees, The Hill reported in January. CNN reported in February that General Motors offered a $25,000 reward on information regarding the placement of racist objects at the plant.

“Discrimination and harassment are not acceptable and in stark contrast to how we expect people to show up at work,” the company told The Hill. “We treat any reported incident with sensitivity and urgency, and are committed to providing an environment that is safe, open and inclusive.”

Early this month, officials at Boeing reported that a noose was found at its assembly plant in North Charleston, South Carolina, according to local channel WTVR.


About the Author

Robert Valencia is the breaking news editor for The North Star. His work as editor and reporter appeared on Newsweek, World Politics Review, Mic.com, Public Radio International and The Miami Herald, among other outlets. He’s a frequent commentator on foreign affairs and U.S. politics on Al Jazeera English, CNN en Español, Univision, Telemundo, Voice of America, C-SPAN, Sirius XM and other media outlets across Latin America and the Caribbean.