House Dems rally to support electricians’ discrimination claims ⋆

Members of the Michigan House Democratic Caucus on Thursday joined a coalition of labor voices in downtown Lansing to rally in support of the United Six — a group of electricians formerly employed by United Electric Contractors (UEC) who allege that they were discriminated against. 

In a federal lawsuit filed in January, the group alleged that UEC maintained a retaliatory and hostile work environment where racial slurs and discrimination against Black and Brown workers were commonplace. They held the demonstration in front of the Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) of Michigan’s Lansing office — the trade association affiliated with UEC.

State Rep. Terry Sabo and House Democrats announce their unemployment benefits package, Sept. 3, 2019 | Nick Manes

“Speaking up for what’s right should be praised, not punished,” said state Rep. Terry Sabo (D-Muskegon), chair of the Michigan Labor Caucus. “When you can get canned for standing up for yourself and standing against discrimination, there’s a problem with not only the company, but the system, too. While most businesses operate with respect and dignity toward their workers, we must stand up to the ones that don’t. As legislators, it’s our duty to ensure that all workers, union and non-union, are heard, supported and given the protections they deserve.”

During a Jan. 20 news conference in Detroit, Richard Mack, an attorney who represents the plaintiffs, said the story of the plaintiffs “reads like a Jim Crow-era novel.” The suit is filed in U.S. District Court. 

“Yet for them, it’s not a story they can end by closing the book,” said Mack.   

Gabriel Tavera said during the news conference that he would hear his coworkers and managers use racial slurs toward him and others every day.

“Calling me a ‘Brown boy’ or the n-word, telling me to ‘go back to Mexico’ despite the fact that I was born in the United States,” Tavera said.

UEC President Scott Flegler has called allegations in the lawsuit “unfounded.”

“These claims had never previously been brought forward to anyone at our company,” said Flegler. “We take any claims of discrimination extremely seriously and have a track record of doing so. When these same plaintiffs filed allegations against us with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) last year, we conducted a thorough, independent review, revealing nothing to substantiate those claims.”

Meanwhile, the Michigan Labor Caucus, composed of House and Senate Democrats, on Tuesday introduced a 34-bill package that would restore workers’ ability to organize, bring back collective bargaining rights and introduce new, comprehensive workers’ rights.

“Michigan’s workers are vital to our state and identity,” said state Rep. Brenda Carter (D-Pontiac), vice chair of the Labor Caucus. “That’s why it pains me to hear how the United Six were treated by their bosses and colleagues. Racism and unsafe working environments cannot be tolerated, and we can’t allow corporations to punish hard workers for doing the right thing by raising their concerns. I know the entire Labor Caucus and I will continue to advocate for the United Six for as long as it takes in their fight for justice.”



authored by Ken Coleman
First published at

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