From: American Federation of Government Employees Local 1923
Posted: Tuesday, March 26, 2013
Union Taking Measures to Address Workplace Harassment, Lack of Institutional Control
The American Federation of Government Employees is working to address recent indications of racial harassment at the Wallops Flight Facility (WFF). Last week, AFGE has learned of a hangman's noose being placed at a construction site on the Wallops Main Base. It has also been brought to our attention that this is not the first demonstration of racial animus and an intention to intimidate and to create a fearful atmosphere. Moreover, we are without any substantive indications that the fostering of such an environment will cease. Nor have we received any meaningful indications that such conduct will not be tolerated by management having responsibility.
As the Courts have stated, "the presence of a hangman's noose evokes an image, particularly among African Americans, of extreme racial violence and a direct threat to life". Tootle v. Department of the Navy, EEOC Appeal No. 07A40127 (Feb. 21, 2006). "Even a single incident involving a hangman's noose is severe enough to alter the terms and conditions of one's employment and to create an abusive work environment". Posey v. United States Postal Service, EEOC Appeal No. 01986619 (July 10, 2001); Tardd v. Brookhaven Nat'l. Lab., 407 F. Supp. 2d 404, (E.D. N.Y. 2006) (employee wearing a KKK hood, a hangman's noose and a doll hanging in effigy on plaintiff's door sufficient to defeat a Federal Rule 12(b) motion to dismiss the hostile work environment claim). AFGE therefore recognizes such incidents as a violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, if not a Federal hate-crime.
First-hand accounts confirm that the targets of this racially-offensive environment are not bargaining-unit, civil-servant employees. However, it is undisputed that NASA employees work alongside those employees that were, and rely daily on their services in carrying out our missions. Moreover, it is disturbing for any employee to be exposed to such a vile environment, as an injustice to one is an injustice to all. AFGE has an institutional interest and a motivating imperative in ensuring a safe, healthful workplace where civil-rights are preserved and protected, and all workers feel welcome and comfortable in fulfilling their duties for our agency. "Diversity" and "Inclusion" is not simply lip-service with your Union. AFGE makes every reasonable effort to see that the deeds match the words in this regard.
Further, your Union has a responsibility to ensure that all laws and regulations regarding workforce management, particularly acquisitions, are followed. That this most recent incident is not the first instance of racial animus toward employees among the contractor workforce, nor the first indication of impropriety and abuse, supports the Union's developing assessment of the Center's lack of institutional control when it comes to oversight of its service contracts - a matter affecting all NASA employees and especially the American taxpayer. Rest assured that your Union will exercise its statutory rights under Title 5 U.S.C. and pursue every administrative, legislative and legal avenue possible to make equal employment opportunity the reality at GSFC and to make certain that high standards of integrity, conduct, and concern for the public interest are maintained.
Contact Ben Robbins, Vice-President, Local 1923
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