Workers from the Toledo plant say they were routinely subjected to racist signs and remarks
Workers from the Toledo plant say they were routinely subjected to racist signs and remarks
Photo: General Motors

A new lawsuit filed in federal court alleges General Motors failed to address a rampant culture of racism at its Toledo transmission plant. There, black workers were subjected to “whites only” bathroom signs, routinely called racist slurs, and nooses were left hanging in plain sight on numerous occasions, the suit says.


The lawsuit, first reported by The Detroit Free Press and which you can read below, says GM’s failure to “take prompt corrective action” resulted in an “atmosphere whereby the hate-driven employees felt free to hang nooses, display racist graffiti, and verbally attack and racially insult African-Americans.”


That includes Mark Edwards, a 59-year-old worker who told the Freep that he discovered a noose hanging by his work station in March 2017.

Per the Freep:

“I was startled, really startled by it,” said Edwards, who took a picture of it. “I couldn’t believe someone did that. I couldn’t understand who in my work area disliked me that much or had that much hatred to hang a noose by my job.”

Edwards, who has worked for GM in various plants since 1977, said he has endured racial slurs and harassment for years from coworkers. He reported each incident to his union reps and managers. He said nothing was done to end it.

The noose was too much, though. Edwards said that in 1968, his then-19-year-old brother was tied up by rope and beaten in a racially motivated attack. It left his brother brain-damaged, he said.

The lawsuit, the Freep notes, goes on to say that whit employees regularly called black workers “boy,” swastikas were painted on restroom stalls, and claims one white supervisor at a meeting said: “What’s the big deal about nooses? There was never a black person who was lynched that didn’t deserve it.”

GM responded by telling the newspaper it treats “any reported incident with sensitivity and urgency, and (is) committed to providing an environment that is safe, open and inclusive.”


But GM did confirm nooses were left hanging in some work spaces, the Freep said:

GM said it worked with union leaders on a memo it handed out to plant workers on April 12, 2017. The memo referenced an “incident” that was “offensive to all employees.” A GM spokesman confirmed that “incident” was the noose Edwards found on March 22.


The automaker claimed it conducted and reinforced a zero-tolerance policy, but nevertheless, workers say not enough has been done to correct the atmosphere.

Kenny Taylor, a 58-year-old worker who has been with GM since the 1970s, summed up how things are for him today, in an interview with the Freep:

Taylor and Edwards have bills to pay and are too young to retire, they said. So Edwards drives from Detroit and Taylor drives the 40-some miles from his home in Brownstown, to the plant to work. Both admit it is tough in light of the lawsuit, and Taylor has put in for a transfer to a different plant.

“I hate to get off the exit when I’m on my way there, I think, ‘What is it going to be like today?’ “ said Taylor. “You just feel the tension when you pull up in the parking lot. There are Confederate flags on the license plates.”


The full story’s available to read here.

Senior Reporter, Jalopnik/Special Projects Desk

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