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Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Does Racial Discrimination Still Exist in the National Ball League?

On April 15, 2007 Major League Baseball celebrated the 60th year of Baseball integration with few African Americans left in the game. Since 1975 professional baseball’s African American population has declined from 28 to 8 percent. This figure represents the lowest percentage of us born black players in baseball since the sport was fully integrated in 1959. At this rate, it is predicted the NBL will have zero African American players by the year 2017.

Have we as African Americans come a long way in Major League Baseball since 1947?

With the integration of Baseball the Negro Baseball League was destroyed. Baseball use to be a favorite pass time for African American Families. It keep our minds off the daily hardships we faced, it brought a since of community, and family. In 1920, Andrew Foster formed the first Negro baseball league with 8 teams. In the first season, more than 400,000 fans attended Negro League games. Black churches had leagues and black businesses supported young players. However, when baseball began to recruit Negro players to increase their star power on the roster, the black community were greeted by segregated seating and chicken wire barriers.

The very fact that the in 1964 the Atlanta – Fulton County Stadium was built in the middle of a poor Black community called Summer Hill in which according to the 1965 Atlanta Constitution Article “ the stadium development had crowded ten thousand people into 354 acres.” During segregation blacks communities were strong because no matter what your social economic status, white Americans forced us to live in the same community. You could see great role models such as your doctor, your lawyer, and teacher living in the same community. When the government needed land to build the new stadiums guess whose community need to make the sacrifice and relocate? The African American community. What they ripped up was more than housing for sports entertainment, they ripped up a community. Your church, your b usiness, your friend, and your neighbor had to be removed in the name of progress. What we got in return was low paying minimum wage jobs. Today, we still suffer! According to an Atlanta Brave official at the Rolling Out Minority Women Business Seminar, the best opportunity for minorities with the Braves diversity program is a “cleaning contract for the Stadium.”

Even worse is the team recruiting efforts of African American players? “Professional baseball has abandoned African Americans, replacing them with brown and black faces from Latin America and Asia. MLB has set up baseball academies in several Latin American countries as part of its worldwide outreach, and players from Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Panama, and Venezuela now comprises nearly 20 percent of baseball teams.” Today, they have only one person of African decent Andruw Jones (born Willemstad, Netherlands) left on the team. Their excuse is there is not enough qualified African American players available, when in fact right in their back yard, you have the 2004 Redan high school graduate Chris Nelson who signed a $2.5 million dollar signing bonus with the Rockies in their No. 1 dra ft pick June 2004.

“Baseball is striking out with black fans turned off by the lack of black faces on the playing field and the high cost of tickets. At a typical minor league game with 2,000 or so fans, you might only see one or two black fans, and those are usually parents,” says Linda Nelson, (Chris Nelson mom) “on a good day for a theme event (church night), you might see 15 or 20 black fans”.

Don’t believe the Hype!

Commissioner Allen H. (Bud) Selig in 1998 authorized the creation of the Diverse Business Partners program, an initiative design to increase economic opportunities by focusing on the cultivation of partnerships with minority and women owned businesses; accompanied by a supplier diversity program for the construction of ball parks. The commissioner also mandates require that minorities be considered the most high-profile positions in each major league organization, including general manager and field manager. On Wednesday May 16, 2007, the Atlanta Braves changed ownership to Liberty Media. However, according to the press release there will be no changes on the Braves Roster or management team.

Baseball Commissioner Allan H. (Bud) Selig announced that Major League Baseball ownership has approved the sale of the Atlanta Braves to Liberty Media. "I am pleased to welcome Liberty Media as the owner of the Atlanta Braves," said Selig. "I am also excited that Terry McGuirk (Atlanta Braves Chairman and CEO) will remain in his role with the club, along with John Schuerholz, Mike Plant, Derek Schiller, Bobby Cox and others. At this press conference, there were no new announcements of his 1998 initiative to improve minority “high profile positions” on the Braves team.

What can be done about discriminatory policies in the Atlanta Braves Organization?

The Atlanta Braves need a strong Work Force, and Supplier Diversity program to ensure Minorities receive more than 1% of the available contracts. The Braves community outreach program should build strong community partnerships for batting practice fields and minor league training programs for youth in the Dekalb, Fulton, Clayton and Atlanta Public schools to ensure future recruitment of African American players. The Braves should list all of their current minority contracts for 2007 and establish a community review board to ensure fairness. The Braves Chairman Terry McGuirk should set a goal to have major improvements implemented by 2010.
Forward your concerns to: Beth Marshall Atlanta Braves 404-614-1336 Or write to: ATLANTA BRAVES · P.O. Box 4064 · Atlanta, GA 30302-4064 · 404/522-7630

Thursday, May 17, 2007

EEOC Reaches out to Teens, Bias, Harassment Often Covered Up

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

A 16-year-old fast-food restaurant worker in rural Georgia is told she has to work late and is raped over two months by her boss.

A male manager at a Family Dollar store in Atlanta ridicules a 17-year-old for not being manly enough.

In Raleigh, teenage boys working at a Carmike Cinema are groped and pressured for sex by their male supervisor, a convicted sex offender.

Since 2000, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has seen a pattern of workplace abuse involving these and other teenagers.

"They are one of the most vulnerable groups [of workers] out there," said Terrie Dandy, an outreach manager in the EEOC's Atlanta district office, which covers all of Georgia and parts of South Carolina.

Hundreds of teenagers file discrimination complaints each year with the federal agency and other state and local civil rights agencies, EEOC officials estimate. Last year alone, more than 40 percent of the cases were sex-related.

The number of cases filed by teenagers represent a fraction of the 7,767 sexual harassment charges filed nationwide last year with the EEOC. But they're no less problematic.

The EEOC is the federal agency that monitors and regulates a wide range of workplace problems such as race and age discrimination, as well as sexual harassment. Between 2001 and 2005, the agency prosecuted 105 lawsuits nationwide involving teen workers. Of those cases, 80 percent involved sexual harassment.

Atlanta EEOC officials received 32 charges from teen workers for the fiscal year ended Sept. 30. Of those charges, 14 were allegations of sexual harassment. Eight of those were against fast-food restaurants.

The problem is far more prevalent than reported cases suggest, EEOC and researchers say.

"We don't get everything," said Anthony Seals, a senior investigator with the EEOC. "A lot of these teens are really fearful. We've been told that if they told an adult they would be retaliated against."

Nationally, most of the charges are against employers in fast-food restaurants, retail and other service industries, places where most of the nation's nearly 6 million teen workers are employed.

While rape is among the worst abuse teens face on the job, it's rare. But it does happen.

"I was shocked," Seals said of his case three years ago involving the 16-year-old fast-food worker. The girl, who came to his office with her mother and a lawyer, was visibly pregnant. The baby's father? Her married boss, who was in his 30s. The girl said she was forced to stay late, and that's when her supervisor would rape her. The girl didn't say anything for a time because she was afraid of losing her job.

"You see a lot of TV [reports] where students have had sexual encounters with teachers," said Seals, who has a 16-year-old daughter. "But you don't think it would flow over into the workplace."

The congressional page scandal, the growing number of teachers preying on students and the national crackdown on online pedophiles have made the American public more aware of teens as sexual targets.

But little is said about what goes on when teenagers don uniforms and head to their jobs, often their first experience in the workplace.

Susan Fineran, an associate professor in the School of Social Work at the University of Southern Maine, has studied teen sexual harassment for the past decade, mostly among students. She now includes teen workers.

"Eighty to 90 percent of kids are out there working these days," she said. "This is a huge population of students basically being exposed to sexual assault or behaviors."

Her research has shown that even though teens work fewer hours than adults, they have just as high a chance of being sexually harassed.

"This is their first experience in the adult workplace for the most part," Fineran said. "Although they may have heard of sexual harassment and how it's bad in school, I'm not sure they're as educated about workplace sexual harassment and what to do about it if it happens to them."

128,000 students reached

In response, federal authorities two years ago created a program to tell middle school, high school and college students about their workplace rights.

Youth@Work Initiative was started by Naomi Earp, who was sworn in as chairman of the EEOC last week.

Shortly before coming to the agency, Earp heard about a 17-year-old girl in her suburb who had been sexually harassed on the job. The case stuck with Earp, mother of a teenager.

When she got to the EEOC, she was disturbed to learn the case was not an isolated incident. Field investigators were reporting increases in teens being sexually harassed at work.

In the two years since Youth@Work's inception, the EEOC has conducted 1,800 events reaching 128,000 students, their employers and teachers.

In Atlanta, for instance, EEOC officials say students regularly approach them after they speak about on-the-job sexual harassment. Some teens say they've been harassed; others are seeking advice on questionable behavior at their jobs. Some of the meetings lead to teens filing charges.

"Teens are very savvy in certain areas like fashion, technology and pop culture," said Lisa Schnall, an attorney adviser to EEOC Chair Earp. "They're a lot less savvy when it comes to their rights on the job."

EEOC official Bernice Williams-Kimbrough said a big part of Youth@Work is aimed at helping employers deal with the issue.

"If they don't have trainers on staff, the EEOC is always available," said Williams-Kimbrough, EEOC district director in Atlanta.

The agency is working with the National Retail Federation, the National Restaurant Association and the National Education Association to address abuses.

"The burden of the business to train and keep training and keep monitoring is very high, and we take it seriously," said Ron Wolf, executive director of the Georgia Restaurant Association, which has 3,000 members ranging from independents to national chains.

Wolf, a former training director for two food-service firms, said the industry does an "exceptional job of addressing sexual harassment, given the sheer volume of people we employ and the transient nature of the industry."

The agency has garnered hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages for teenagers in recent years. In Georgia, the five largest monetary benefits to teens totaled more than $49,000 during the last five years.

Wide range of offenses

The offenses teenagers report run the gamut, ranging from lewd comments and jokes to touching, pressure for sex or any other situation that creates a hostile work environment.

Just last month, a jury in New York awarded a group of women $585,000 in a sexual harassment suit the EEOC brought against their former employer, a national basement waterproofing company.

The 13 women, who were teenagers when the abuses occurred, endured crude remarks and were asked to dress provocatively and dance on tables for male co-workers. One 16-year-old girl was coerced into having her toes sucked by her male manager in front of her co-workers on her first day on the job.

Carmike Cinemas was ordered last year to pay $765,000 in a case involving 14 teenage boys. The Carmike case is unique, EEOC officials said, because cases of males sexually harassing other males are rarely reported, especially when the victim is a teenager.

Monetary awards are little consolation to Fineran, who fears that the abuses will have lasting effect.

"It can turn kids off to working," she said. It also makes parents reluctant to let their children experience the challenges of first jobs, what for past generations has been a rite of passage into adulthood.

Seals, who has worked on more than 200 sexual harassment cases, mostly of adults, in his six years at the EEOC, worries about that, too. Working with teen victims has made him ultraprotective of his daughter, who at 16 is old enough to work.

"She's not working, but she wants to," Seals said last week, while on his way to investigate a case of sexual abuse of a young convenience store worker.

"But I'm kind of cautious about where she works. I'm not too comfortable with her working at a fast-food restaurant."

EEOC Office Move is Part of Effort to Control Costs

By Amelia Gruber
May 3, 2007

A controversial Equal Employment Opportunity Commission plan to relocate its Washington headquarters is part of a broader effort to free up resources to tackle growing backlogs of employment discrimination complaints, the agency's chair told lawmakers Thursday.

EEOC faced an inventory of nearly 40,000 private sector charges at the end of fiscal 2006, a 19 percent increase over the previous year, said Naomi Earp, the agency's chair, in testimony before a Senate appropriations subcommittee. The inventory may reach 67,000 by the end of fiscal 2008, she said. Piles of hearing requests and appeals from federal employees also are growing, she testified.

Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., chairwoman of the Appropriations Commerce, Justice and Science Subcommittee, expressed concern that EEOC did not -- in its fiscal 2008 budget request for $327.7 million -- seek an increase in staff over the 2,381 full-time employees budgeted for 2007. The agency's budget has been essentially flat for the past five years and EEOC has lost at least 500 employees, most of them front-line workers responsible for investigating claims, Mikulski said.

Earp declined to discuss any staff levels beyond those sought in the Bush administration's budget request. Pressed by Mikulski, she pledged to supply the subcommittee with a backlog reduction strategy and goals. Earp outlined several measures to reduce inventories using existing resources, including enhanced training in addition to rent control.

Meanwhile, an upcoming office move that is part of the effort to rein in rent and is slated to affect about 500 employees at the agency's downtown Washington headquarters and field office has prompted an outcry from employees. In e-mails circulated last week, workers voiced concerns about the safety, accessibility and amenities at a more cost-effective site recommended by the General Services Administration.

Earp said in a memorandum Tuesday that she met with officials at GSA, the government's main property management arm, Monday to discuss these issues, and was told amenities should be in place by the time EEOC moves.

"Quite simply, our options are limited," Earp wrote. "The next best location shares the same issues as the best location."

EEOC employees say the site in question is a developing business district north of Massachusetts Ave. and the Capitol, known as the NoMa Corridor. Earp has not confirmed the location because a lease has yet to be signed, but she also has not countered the claims.

A Web site promoting NoMa calls it "one of the most exciting redevelopment areas in metropolitan Washington," noting that the section of the city is "already home to major corporations, prominent government agencies, stylish new retailers and professional service firms that have recognized the area's unlimited potential."

But in their e-mails, EEOC employees cited concerns that, though the area is being revitalized, it may not be developed enough to be safe by July 2008, which is when the agency's current lease at L and 18th streets N.W. in downtown Washington expires.

One message stated, "While the area may be classified as a 'prime commercial office district' by some pre-determined standard, the reality is that residents of the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area do not consider it to be so. It is generally considered to be a wasteland of dance clubs, empty warehouses, hotels/motels and high crime."

The employee also said the new location would "diminish our presence as an agency and deter potential charging parties from physically contacting the agency."

In another e-mail, an EEOC employee and longtime Capitol Hill resident echoed the safety concerns, noting, "My fear is not idle, but comes from knowledge that the neighborhoods near the building are dangerous. I don't think I should have to face this type of fear as a part of working for the federal government."

Earp said in her memo that a lease should be signed within the next few weeks. She noted that rejecting the recommended site would initiate a lengthy process requiring EEOC to negotiate an extension of its current lease -- a proposition that would be costly even if the building owner agreed to the request.

"EEOC is defined not by our headquarters address but by our passion, determination and commitment to promoting equal employment opportunities," Earp wrote in the memo. "That said, I understand that this is an issue of extreme importance to you and I want to reassure you that I intend to make the move as smooth as possible."