Saturday, October 13, 2007

A hangman's noose in the boss' office *UPDATED*

(Update, 9:15 a.m. 10/15: Welcome to the many CPS Energy visitors to this blog! Please leave a comment regarding this photograph. Be careful NOT to do so from your workstation, however).

Click for a larger view.

This is a photograph from the cubicle of a supervisor at CPS Energy of San Antonio, "the nation's largest municipally-owned energy company providing both natural gas and electric service", according to their website.

The photo was provided to me by a representative of IBEW, which recently organized eleven employees there in the map support services department. I'll let him tell you the rest:

We set up a meeting with management to discuss the 11 employees that joined the IBEW. I received an e-mail from management telling me that I could not come into their building and represent these employees that exercised their rights to join a labor organization. In the past they had been told by management that salaried employees could not join the union. I sent a letter out to non-members working at CPS Energy and explained to them they had the right to join a union. In the past several months since, a number of salaried employees joined the union. In this department they had a black supervisor that was demoted. He took this picture after his demotion and told another CPS supervisor who was also demoted and showed him the photo (above) of the twelve noose, the old testament and the new version and the split between the bibles so they don’t touch, which is a symbol of white supremacy.

I was showed the picture by several other black employees who were also demoted and asked to find other jobs. We started looking into this and found out that people of color, older employees, Hispanics and white female employees were constructively being moved out of the company. A number of them were forced to take a sum of money to retire and leave the company.

Here is a link to KSAT's video of the story.

Hangman's nooses have been in the news far too frequently of late, as anyone who is familiar with the case of the Jena 6 knows. Another supervisor for a public utility company in Nassau County, New York, was apparently making a similar display at his office about a year ago. Jack and Jill document several noose appearances in just the past two weeks across the country. And it was just last year as well that former Sen. George Allen of Virginia gained infamy for his "macaca" remark and was later revealed to have a ficus tree with a hangman's noose in his law office.

Most interesting to me is that while my source indicates management at CPS was notified about this matter more than once and failed to respond, the CEO of CPS Energy, Milton Lee, is African-American, as is the company's vice president and chief administrative officer, Paula Gold-Williams.

Hangman's nooses shouldn't be on display in the offices of a publicly-owned utility company, or any business, in America in 2007. They shouldn't be displayed anywhere, publicly or privately, but obviously racial tolerance still has a long journey ahead.

Let's take a small step forward by contacting CPS Energy and asking them to instruct this supervisor to remove the noose display from his cubicle. Their e-address is .

Update (10/15): A press conference is scheduled this morning:

An International Union Representative of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), representing employees of CPS Energy, will make a public statement and take questions from the press concerning the recent discovery that a manager at CPS Energy keeps a hangman’s noose with Ku Klux Klan symbolism in his office. The press conference will take place on Monday, October 15, 2007, at 10:00 a.m. in front of the CPS Energy office at 145 Navarro Street (San Antonio).

An employee discovered the hangman’s noose, photographed it, and informed representatives of the IBEW. A number of minority employees at CPS Energy have suffered adverse personnel actions in recent months and have complained of discrimination. In addition, Union members throughout the CPS Energy workforce have been complaining for months about management’s disregard of established working conditions and acts of retaliation against employees who assert their rights. On October 10, the IBEW’s International Representative was refused entry to CPS Energy offices to meet with management to discuss the deteriorating working conditions at CPS Energy on behalf of employees.

Ralph Merriweather, IBEW International Representative, stated, “The hangman’s noose is the tip of the iceberg. There is a management culture of repression and vindictiveness toward employees throughout CPS Energy. No community can tolerate this kind of hatefulness in a public agency.” Merriweather will address the issue more fully in the Monday morning press conference.

Update (2:15 p.m.) : has a video link to this morning's press conference and reports that the noose has been removed.

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