Steelworkers file complaint against Sylacauga plant for alleged racism

SYLACAUGA, Ala. (AP) — The United Steelworkers union has filed a federal complaint of race discrimination against the Imerys Carbonates plant in Sylacauga, alleging its black workers have been subjected to racial epithets and threats by white superiors.

Union officials said in a statement Thursday the complaint against Imerys, which is based in Paris, France, was filed with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

The complaint alleges that white supervisors at the Sylacauga plant have enforced company work rules and imposed discipline more harshly against blacks and have retaliated against workers who have complained of racism.

Company officials did not immediately respond to phone and e-mail messages seeking comment Thursday.

The union filig with the EEOC says that, in one instance, a white supervisor responded to a complaint by a black employee by stating that if the employee was going to be hanged, "He would complain about the rope and the tree."

The Sylacauga plant has about 400 workers, with the union representing about 75 percent of them, union spokesman Joe Drexler of Nashville, Tenn., said Thursday. He said the union secured its second contract with Imerys in January 2004, but he said there's been a breakdown in labor relations.

"The company refuses basically to recognize U.S. labor laws," Drexler said.

The racism complaint came a day after Imerys agreed to settle four pending unfair labor practice cases issued against it by the National Labor Relations Board.

Union officials said the settlement requires Imerys to post notices in multiple locations around its Sylacauga plant informing its employees that it will no longer violate federal law in the manner alleged in the NLRB complaints.