By Wayne Morrison
I started working for Coca-Cola in early 2008. I was originally hired for the merchandiser position. My responsibilities consisted of packing Coca-Cola products in retail stores and setting up displays, while also rotating the stock. I covered an area that spanned from the Bronx, N.Y to Ridgefield, Connecticut.
At first, it seemed like a good job. I was working for a big, prestigious company with endless amounts of opportunities, or so I thought.
About a year later, I heard that Coca-Cola was making some changes in my department; they changed the supervisors. I heard that the reason was because the original supervisors were very worker-friendly and that they were too nice and tolerant. I didn’t believe that at first because those supervisors provided us with a conducive and harassment-free work zone that enabled us to be more productive.
Shortly after, I saw that the supervisory staff was indeed replaced with new aggressive supervisors that professed that they were there to “clean house” and that they were going to “cut the overtime because workers were making too much money.” I would often hear these supervisors say things such as “you’re not going to be able to pay for your cars” and “I’ll be damned if my subordinate will make more money than me.” I tried to ignore it, but I knew that this was going to be a problem.
Here are some ways racism plays out for people of African descent working in the education system:
– Black teachers can be subtly expected to be the ones to deal with “problem” black students, even if they’re not in their class. This means they have a higher workload since they already have their own students to deal with.
– Black teachers are expected to be the ones to organize events like African heritage Month assemblies, or to lead cultural groups for black students. It’s complicated because often black teachers want to be good role models and help create positive experiences for kids from the black community, but at the same time the expectation is stifling when your workload is heavy. Also it’s great when a black teacher teaches a course like African Canadian Studies, but also that expectation can be stifling. Maybe a black teacher would rather teach another course…
– When there aren’t many black students in a school, there’s a sense of “well, maybe we don’t need to do anything for African Heritage Month.”
By Matt Allen G.
I have never felt discriminated against in my life, not for anything: race, religious beliefs, nor disability.
Not until yesterday at my equal opportunity employer. When I was first interviewed at this retail location (that I have always loved and was excited to work at) I disclosed my Multiple Sclerosis limitations right off the bat. My disclosure was met with the assurance that everything would be done to make sure that my limitations would be properly accommodated. I was happy.
Things were great for the first week or so. I was hired to cover the electronics department and I was told that sometimes I would have to venture into other areas of the store. I didn’t mind that; a small department working on things I was knowledgeable with, low temperatures, probably low stress, and little physical work. Just what I needed.
After a week or two though, I started noticing subtle changes in the way people talked to me as well as what they expected of me. Soon I was in charge of electronics and toys and then infants and then seasonal and then I was running around all the departments of the store while trying to cover electronics. There was much more physical work and I was now breaking a sweat. I started noticing my schedule saying that I was working the floor instead of electronics. It was like they noticed I was more reliable than others to get things done so they threw them in electronics and had me doing the tougher stuff. I didn’t complain because I was happy to have a job and I don’t like to say “I can’t”.
By Freddy Estrada
I started to work for Coca-Cola in Carlstad, NJ, in May 2005. I was 28 when that happened. My life changed. I was so glad to work for a big company thinking that life will be better for my family and for myself.
Later on everything started to change. I was harassed by a supervisor. I wrote some grievances on him, and that’s when my nightmare started. Other managers and supervisors started to attack me and retaliate against me.
I used to be so happy with my daughters and wife till I became so angry. My attitude changed due to the stress on me and the nightmares I was having — I would not wish this for anybody who has been a victim of racial discrimination and harassment and retaliation. It’s not a joke!
It affects you and your family. I’m not married anymore. I’m going through a divorce. I don’t see my kids like I used to, thanks to Coca-Cola that destroyed my life and my family.
By Yvette Butler
I am a single mother of three children. I was hired by Coca-Cola in 2003 as a production mechanic at the Maspeth, Queens (New York) plant. I was the only female African-American mechanic until my termination in 2008. For five years, I faced constant racial and gender discrimination, unfair work assignments and sexual harassment from supervisors and co-workers. My complaints to managers and the Human Resources Department were ignored.
Throughout my employment, I was denied essential training on machines alongside my co-workers while white male mechanics were given this necessary training. I was constantly harassed on the job by male co-workers and supervisors who made comments like, “What is it? That time of the month?” A white female co-worker refusing an assignment went unchallenged when she openly said in a meeting and in my presence, “What am I, a Nigger?”
A maintenance manager persistently asked me for dates and made sexual jokes as I worked on the machines. The harassment and abuses escalated after I refused his advances. He told supervisors to assign me to dangerous and hazardous jobs alone, jobs that are normally done by two or more mechanics, thus jeopardizing my safety. None of my male and non-black counterparts had to work alone on these jobs. Another supervisor even instructed me to use a cigarette lighter to heat and soften up a hose in a room full of flammable chemicals. Instructions I fortunately did not follow and found another way to fix the hose.