In response to reports of a hangman’s noose being hung in the American Beverage plant, in Verona, that employs several African-Americans, The Ordinary People Society has launched its own investigation, bringing national attention to the incident.
The Alabama-based organization, known mostly for its voting rights restoration successes in Alabama and Florida, has interviewed several employees and learned that the maintenance crews are the focus of the inquiries because they have access to the rafters from which the noose was discovered hanging on July 11.
“Everyone knows what a noose stands for, just like they know what a cross stands for,” said TOPS Founder Kenneth Glasgow, D.D. “We’re reaching out to the union and the company because this is the third racial incident at this plant, and in 2011 someone would so blatantly commit such a public, racist, hateful act.”
Glasgow said he would like to speak with more employees, but they may be fearful of losing their jobs if they speak up.
Company spokesman Mike Bartlett said the company and the United Steelworkers Local has made it clear that they want people to speak up, and have provided a toll-free number that allows all employees to anonymously provide information on the incident.
Bartlett said the plant’s civil rights committee, which includes employees, management and union representatives, formulated an action plan to address the problem. It included reviewing surveillance footage, informing all three shifts of the investigation and interviewing employees.
“Unfortunately, the cameras don’t pan, and the noose was hung in an area they didn’t cover,” he said. “But I’ve met with all three shifts, the union is providing sensitivity training, we set up the hotline and reissued copies of our anti-discrimination and harassment policy with every paycheck.”
Bartlett said because the noose was discovered at 5 p.m., an hour into the afternoon shift, the midnight shift personnel are pretty much in the clear. He reiterated that when the perpetrator is discovered, that employee would be terminated.
“The union is totally on board with that, and as I also said we take this very seriously,” said Bartlett. “Although, getting fired will probably be the least of their worries because the FBI is involved.”
Bartlett said FBI agents have visited the plant, and are investigating. He has provided specific information they requested on two separate occasions.
“They don’t say what they are doing, but I imagine they’ll be talking to folks here, if they haven’t already,” he said.
Bartlett added that he is disappointed that no one has yet called the hotline, especially since it can be done anonymously. He also said the company website had received Glasgow’s emails, but he has not spoken with him.
Glasgow said he has no problem giving the company time to handle the issue in-house, as long as it is handled.
“If people are intimidated about losing their jobs over speaking out about a hate crime, that’s not a safe environment,” said Glasgow. “We’ve also set up a toll free number if they’d feel more comfortable calling us.“ The toll-free number is 1- 855-888-0801.
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