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.
By John McDevitt
Two summers ago I was hired in a phone interview at the now bankrupt A&P foodstore. I mentioned in the interview that I had previously worked there as a teenager. The manager, anxious to hire someone with previous experience, hired me by phone and sent off the offer letter for the position. A little more than a week after I began working, I received a call on my day off telling me, “I’m sorry, but we are not going to need you anymore because we think the work might make your back hurt.”
I was surprised because I had stocked all the shelves, kept the dairy aisle in order and completed all the tasks on time, even early. It was odd to me since I never raised having any back pain. It was only afterwards that I began to think about the reason.
After I moved to New Mexico in 2015, I was hired as a security guard at a local casino. I was told by management: “We have the older guys work outside, not inside of the casino.” The position outside paid $1.50 less an hour. My 80-year old Latino co-worker who worked day shift was not considered for an indoor position, but worked outdoors during the day due to his poor night vision. He was still working because he could not survive on the Social Security of a worker who had earned minimum wage his entire life.
I’m new to being seen as an older worker, but having arrived at this stage in my life I have come to know what we call age discrimination. I’m telling this story not to adopt a new identity as an “older worker,” but to build the maximum unity of workers of all ages to stand up to this discrimination that impacts younger and older alike.
By Cheryl Hughes
I was a divorced mother of two when I began pursuing an engineering degree in 1982. I had to overcome many obstacles such as an overwhelming male majority in the field, time management constraints, child care dilemmas, and finding a balance between motherhood and being a student. However, there was one obstacle I couldn’t overcome — pay inequity.
I was hired by a manufacturer on February 1, 1995, as an associate engineer with a starting salary of $39,600. When I asked for more money, I was told it was not in the budget. I decided to accept the offer and prove that I was worthy of a higher salary.
While working there, I befriended a white male engineer. He had asked the salaries of our white co-workers. In 1996, he asked my salary; I replied, “$44,423.22.” He told me that I, an African American woman, was being discriminated against. The next day, he gave me pamphlets from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Despite learning that I was underpaid, I worked diligently to improve my skills. My performance evaluations were good. When a young white woman was hired at my firm, my friend told me that she earned $2,000 more than I did. At this time, I had a master’s degree in electrical engineering and three years of electrical engineering experience. This young woman had one year of co-op experience and a bachelor’s degree in engineering.