The alleged practices at the construction site that seemed plucked
right out of the Jim Crow days were detailed in a 2008 SF Weekly cover
story "Building Racism." While the plaintiffs signed confidentiality agreements regarding the terms of the mediation last week, some of the 20 remaining plaintiffs expressed anger at the relatively paltry amount of money they were offered -- and that some of their fellow carpenters would accept it (Because of the confidentiality agreement, SF Weekly cannot reveal the exact dollar amount).
"Eight people jumped off the wagon quick," said one of the plaintiffs
who has remained in the suit, adding that all of the plaintiffs who
chose to settle were African American -- though some African American plaintiffs remain. "They said they hadn't worked in
a year. I haven't worked either, but it's the whole idea of staying
"They're trying to sell us out," said another
plaintiff about the companies. "They're trying to conquer and
divide...It was a blue light special...It was just intimidating."
The SF Weekly
story on the case highlighted how Latinos were allegedly threatened and
even physically attacked by their supervisors on and off the work site
for complaining to the union about having to pay their superiors part
of their wages. African Americans and Latinos were allegedly assigned
to separate work crews, and the African Americans were repeatedly told
they were too slow.
Since the story ran, new details that
would seem to corroborate the workers' accusations have emerged.
According to court documents filed in federal court this year, an
employee of the project's subcontractor, IMR, said he talked with both
AIMCO and Fortney & Weygandt about whether IMR and another
subcontractor should racially integrate the segregated work crews and
hire more African American residents of the area.
the suit, the IMR employee said the decisions "were
made by committee based on the notions that Latinos would not work with
African Americans and that hiring more African-American resident
workers on the project would cost too much money because they are not
as productive as Latino (Mexican) workers." Asked to back up the
difference in productivity to the other companies, the IMR employee
said that he and a Bay Building Services employee had two teams
of four men - one team all Latino, one all black - perform the same
task and calculated that the African Americans were 40 percent as productive
as their Latino counterparts, according to the suit.
doesn't happen everyday," said the carpenters' attorney, Bob Salinas,
in reference to employers testing different races' productivity. "I
Furthermore, the suit alleges that an AIMCO
representative serving as the project's director of construction told
the subcontractors that she didn't care if they didn't hire African
Americans. Also according to the suit, the project's vice-president of
construction allegedly referred to African Americans as "niggers" and "monkeys" during meetings with the subcontractors, saying "if they
were good workers, would they be living here?"
court documents, AIMCO denies all the allegations, and argues the
company cannot be held liable for the actions of the subcontractors.
the carpenters are not happy about the folks who settled with the
companies -- "I don't even want to talk to people who took the
settlement," one plaintiff said -- Salinas claims"it doesn't affect the
rights of the other plaintiffs."
"The people that are
remaining in the suit are committed to making sure that the truth about
how things happened out there comes to light," Salinas says.