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Sunday, December 15, 2013

Negotiations begin for 13,000 Missouri home care attendants bargaining first contract

BY JOE LAWRENCE  |  NOVEMBER 25, 2013

Home care attendant Julia May of St. Joseph

It was a great day, five years in the making, when home care attendants met with the State of Missouri for their first-ever contract negotiation session.

The Missouri Home Care Union bargaining team on Tuesday, Nov. 19, went over a range of issues with the state. The first day dealt with non-economic issues such as representation rights, a voice in policies and procedures, adequate training and resolving late-payment issues. Economic issues will be addressed in later sessions. The next bargaining date is scheduled for Dec. 10.

“We’re making it clear to the state that we’re united and committed to make home care better for attendants and the people we help, our consumers,” said Julia May of St. Joseph. “I can tell we’re making a difference.”

The negotiations are a result of the Quality Home Care Act, which Missouri voters overwhelmingly passed in 2008. The law opens the door to improvements in the Medicaid-funded program and allows the state’s 13,000 attendants to have a voice in their work. The Missouri Home Care Union, a partnership of AFSCME and SEIU, posted two resounding election victories and turned back right-wing legal attacks on its way to this month’s historic negotiations.

Posted In: Home CareLabor Movement


Monday, December 9, 2013

Black Police Officer Claims She Was Falsely Arrested by Two White Officers on Long Island

By Frank Eltman, Dec 5, 2013

A black police officer claimed Thursday that she was improperly charged with resisting arrest by two white officers from her own department last week on Long Island.

The 19-year veteran of the Nassau County Police Department said she immediately identified herself as a fellow officer during an initial confrontation Nov. 29 with a uniformed officer while she was off-duty and shopping in West Hempstead. She said she was targeted because she is black.

"I have been wrongfully charged and falsely arrested, requiring me to defend against allegations that are based on prejudice coming from my own police force," Officer Dolores Sharpe said during a press conference at her attorney's Long Island office. She declined to take questions from reporters.

Sharpe's attorney claims the off-duty officer was shopping for weather stripping at a "dollar store" last Friday afternoon when a uniformed officer confronted her in a parking lot. Attorney Fred Brewington said the officer began verbally berating the woman, saying that where she parked had blocked his view of something he was watching for an undisclosed investigation.

The attorney claimed the officer was "using all types of curse words and making comments to her that I can't repeat."

The woman eventually went into the store and when she returned she was again confronted by the uniformed cop. Sharpe eventually left the parking lot, but was pulled over by him about two blocks away. Another officer joined the first one at that point, and that is where she was taken into custody and brought to a precinct house and later given a summons charging her with resisting arrest.

She is due in court Jan. 9.

She said she was informed while being arrested that she was immediately suspended without pay. Sharpe is assigned to an office that screens prospective police applicants.

"I have been terribly disappointed by the Nassau County Police Department, to whom I have dedicated two decades of my work life," Sharpe told reporters.

A spokeswoman said Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano was "prohibited from commenting on an ongoing investigation." A police department spokesman also declined comment, citing an ongoing internal affairs investigation. Inspector Kenneth Lack, the department spokesman, said he was unable to even discuss basic details about the officer's arrest.

A telephone message for the president of the Patrolman's Benevolent Association was not immediately returned.




Sunday, December 8, 2013

Black Women Worry That Their Natural Hair Could Affect Job Employment Or Retention

The Huffington Post  |  By 03/05/2013 

Is the texture or style of your hair preventing you from being hired? Sounds like a pretty silly question, however it was precisely the topic at hand during a panel discussion entitled “Black Women, Their Hair & The Work Place – A Dialogue” at Georgia State University.

Approximately 100 women gathered last week to contemplate the idea that their skills, talent and intelligence could be overshadowed by a hairstyle. And more often than not, the concern is based on women of color sporting their natural hair.

Yes, the hair that grows naturally from the roots of our heads could be contributing to the growing unemployment rates. Baffling.

Men are not immune to this hairy situation either. Last Summer, Hampton University issued a ban on cornrows and dreadlocks for male business students.

“You’re talking about being polished and (having) interview skills and yet no one is addressing the fact that natural black hair has been traditionally seen as not polished on its own whether it’s well cared for or not,” Nakisha McNeal, a student at the GSU Robinson College of Business, told SaportaReport. “So basically it’s all about maintaining the Eurocentric standpoint.”

This stance sadly echoes the stereotypes that we've fought against, and the personal freedoms we've strived to gain for so long. In fact, they're fighting words.

Case in point, take the firestorm that ensued a few years ago when a white Glamour magazine editor told a group of women at a New York law firm that afros were a "no-no", and that a "political" hairstyle like dreadlocks was inappropriate for the workplace. Black women were outraged and the comments got the editor six weeks on probation and ultimately resulted in her resignation.

Or when controversy stirred after meteorologist Rhonda Lee was fired from her post at Louisiana's KTBS news channel after defending her right to rock her short natural hairstyle via the television station's Facebook page.

As more and more women have decided to embrace their natural hair, we hope that potential employers' prejudice regarding our hair's kinks and curls will subside. It would be a shame to see women celebrating their curls personally and having to downplay them professionally.

How do you feel about sporting natural hair (locs, afros, curls, braids, etc) in the workplace? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section.


Thursday, October 24, 2013

Fast-Food Giants Make Billions While Their Workers Use Billions in Welfare Benefits

By Steven Rosenfeld, AlterNet

Wages at America’s fast-food chains are so low that millions of employees have been receiving at least $7 billion a year in welfare benefits between 2007 and 2011, according to a new study by University of California and University of Illinois labor economists.

“Our research estimates the public cost of low wages—low wage jobs in the fast food industry,” said Ken Jacobs, chair of the U.C. Berkeley Center for Labor Research and Education. “We specifically focus on the core, frontline fast-food workforce. These are people you are most likely to see when you walk into a fast-food restaurant.”  

“The median wage for these workers is $8.65 an hour,” Jacobs said Tuesday. “Only 13 percent have health benefits through their employer. The combination of low wages, meager benefits and often part-time hours means that many of the families of fast-food workers must rely on taxpayer-funded safety net programs to make ends meet.” 
But the billions in taxpayer subsidies is only half of the story, the labor economists said, because a companion report, also released Tuesday, found that the 10 largest fast-food chains made more than $15 billion in profits and shareholder give-backs in 2012—revealing the industry could afford to pay living wages. 

The 10 biggest chains earned $7.44 billion in profits in 2012, National Employment Law Project (NELP) found. The 10 chains, with 2.25 million workers, account for “nearly 60 percent, or $3.8 billion, of the almost $7 billion in public costs associated with their low-wage, no-benefit business model,” it said. These corporate-run franchises granted “more than $53 million in compensation to their highest-paid executives and an additional $7.7 billion in dividends and buybacks to shareholders.” 

The 10 largest fast-food chains are McDonald’s, Yum Brands (Pizza Hut, Taco Bell, KFC), Subway, Burger King, Wendy’s, Dunkin’ Donuts, Dairy Queen, Little Cesar’s, Sonic, and Domino’s.

McDonald’s, with slightly more than 700,000 workers in the U.S., was the fast-food giant costing taxpayers the most, with employees collecting $1.2 billion in public assistance in four federal-state programs: Medicaid/CHIP, which is healthcare for households making below the poverty line; the Earned Income Tax Credit, food stamps and TANF, or aid to needy families. The economists did not count welfare benefits like housing subsidies, meaning the total public cost is larger than what it reported, its authors said.

The findings in two reports were based on household income data collected by the U.S. Census Bureau, which is one of the most detailed confidential surveys conducted by the government, and Wall Street earnings reports. It was funded byFast Food Forward, a national campaign seeking $15 an hour in wages and benefits such as paid sick leave.  

The twin reports are part of a shaming campaign to pressure the fast-food industry to fill in the gap between wages and benefits that hover above the legal minimum wage, but are not living wages. They were summarized in a media conference call where several fast food workers described the impact of low wages and no benefits on their lives.

“I don’t expect to get rich,” said Willietta Dukes, a 40-year-old North Carolina Burger King worker who receives food stamps. “But why can’t we pay our bills?”

“The CEO makes more in a day than I make in a year,” said Devonte Yates, a Milwaukee McDonald’s worker who receives food stamps and said he has no expectation that he will be given employee benefits such as healthcare. “They can afford to pay their workers more. We work hard. We should be able to live simply and have basic necessities.”

The UC Berkeley/University of Illinois study makes a strong case that fast-food jobs are possibly the worst in America, based on the percentage of workers who turn to a mix of state and federal welfare programs to make ends meet and raise their children.
“More than half (52 percent) of the families of front-line fast-food workers are enrolled in one or more public programs, compared to 25 percent of the workforce as a whole,” the academics’ report said, which found that 26 percent of these workers were parents; and 42 percent were older than 18. The rest were younger teenagers not living on their own.

Fast-food workers with families could not escape the cycle of poverty, the report said.
“One in five families with a member holding a fast-food job has an income below the poverty line, and 43 percent have an income two times the federal poverty level or less,” it said. “Even full-time hours are not enough to compensate for low wages. The families of more than half of the fast-food workers employed 40 or more hours per week are enrolled in public assistance programs.”

Burger King worker Willietta Dukes said she was proud of doing her job well and said the industry’s wages have fallen over time.

“I am good at what I do," she said, saying she raised two children working at fast-food chains for 20 years. “It hasn’t always been this way.”

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license. It may not be reproduced in any form without permission or license from the source.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Ray Kelly aka “The Hatchet Man” -- Bad Choice for Homeland Security from An Insider


Sep. 24, 2013

By Cathy Harris, Former Customs Whistleblower

Ray Kelly, New York Police Commissioner, is a top contender for the position of the Secretary of Homeland Security. However, many critics are calling upon the President through circulated petitions and contacts through their legislators for the President to reconsider appointing Kelly to such an important position.

Kelly has a long history of allowing racial profiling to take place against minorities. Even in New York where racial profiling has always been a hot button issue, Kelly has made statements in the past that minorities especially African Americans commit more crimes, therefore, they need to be stopped and frisked more often than anyone else. These types of practices and policies have allowed New York police departments to stop and frisk African Americans, Hispanics and other minorities at a disproportionate rate over the years.

As a former U.S. Customs Inspector, now called Customs and Border Protection Officer (CBP.gov), I personally watched Ray Kelly take over the U.S. Customs Service as the Customs Commissioner from 1998-2001. They sent Ray Kelly into the U.S. Customs Service to stop the racial profiling of African American travelers especially black women who were undergoing abusive and invasive pat-downs and strip-searches as they traveled back into this country (C-span clip http://www.c-spanvideo.org/clip/4463918).

After forming my own organization, “Customs Employees Against Discrimination Association (CEADA),” to monitor what was happening in the agency against employees and travelers, I blew the whistle in 1998 “The Cathy Harris Story” (www.TheCathyHarrisStory.com) and wrote the book “Flying While Black: A Whistleblower’s Story.”  The book has been revised into two books “The Cathy Harris Story: A Whistleblower’s Victorious Journey to Justice” (available as paperback and e-book at www.AngelsPress.com) and “The Failure of Homeland In-Security: The Government’s Dirty Little Secrets from an Insider” (available as e-book only).

Other steps I took to blow the whistle besides forming my own organization was I went to the National Newspapers Publishers Association (NNPA) who published articles every 2 weeks to 200 black newspapers and a media attorney who gave my story to a Fox 5 Investigative News Team in Atlanta, who later won the Peabody Award for my story “Singled Out by U.S. Customs.”

In Chicago, Attorney Ed Fox filed an historic class-action lawsuit against the U.S. Customs Service when over 1300 black women international travelers -- judges, doctors, lawyers, teachers, etc. and other professional women said they were subjects of U.S. Customs intrusive searches. The lawsuit resulted in a 2 million dollar settlement with only 87 of the women being able to join because of the statute of limitations.

A March 2000 General Accounting Office (GAO.gov) report http://www.gao.gov/new.items/gg00038.pdf proved that the U.S. Customs Service purposely went after black women international travelers and subjected them to these  humiliating and demeaning examinations. Not only were black women international travelers forced to strip naked in Customs search rooms but they were taken to hospitals, even when pregnant, and shackled to hospital beds for up to 4 days by U.S. Customs Inspectors.

They were then forced to drink a laxative “go litely,” even when pregnant. The Customs Service tried to say these women were drug mules bringing drugs into the country, but we found out later that all the searches and detentions were conducted so that U.S. Customs Inspectors could make more overtime money especially supervisors even though many were already making over $120,000 a year.

Instead of stopping the racial profiling, these are just some of the steps Ray Kelly took as Customs Commissioner:

  • He changed the word “strip-search” to “body-search” in the Personal Search Handbook to lessen the effect of the searches.
  • He fired over 100 whistleblowers including GS-12 Supervisors from Miami and was even called “The Hatchet Man” because he axed so many employees.
  • He told high-ranking managers in a meeting in DC (Headquarters) to go after anyone that files an Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) complaint and at that time I had 6 pending EEO complaints.  So anytime anyone would file a complaint, their names went on a "blacklist" or "hit list" to be forced out of the agency.
  • Kelly created a new harsh Table of Offenses which violated the rights of Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Officers. Many CBP Officers who were prior law enforcement stated that these new harsh Table of Offenses were for law enforcement not CBP Officers. CBP Officers are not law enforcement! They do not have 20 year retirement; 24 hour gun-carry; 24 hour protection; or receive 25% extra pay.
  • Disciplinary Review Boards (DRBs) were introduced by Kelly and have continued to violate DHS employees. According to many former employees and whistleblowers, all the employees who were terminated because of these boards should be brought back to the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) or compensated for wrongful terminations.

Managers used the personnel system to go after good, hard-working employees by falsely disciplining them. First time offenses are now consisting of suspensions. Second offenses or another suspension means terminations. In the past first time offenses called for oral or written reprimands.

Positive changes that took place during Kelly reign because of whistleblowers and traveler’s complaints include:

  • The entire Personnel Search Handbook was rewritten several times.
  • Two bills were introduced to protect international travelers “The Reasonable Search Standards Act” by Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL) (1999 & 2001) and the “Civil Rights for International Travelers Act” by Congressman John Lewis (D-GA) (1999 & 2001).
  • New and updated brochures, signs and other informational material including the Customs declaration were rewritten and reproduced.
  • The decision to conduct a personal search of a passenger must now be decided by a supervisor rather than a non-supervisory Officer, including a brand new Officer.
  • The Customs Managers at the GS-14 or GS-15 levels must now approve all x-ray examinations or detentions of a passenger at hospitals.
  • If a personal search of an individual lasts longer than two hours, a Customs supervisor will make a phone call to a person of the passenger’s choice.
  • Customs now requires that all Secondary Data collections include race.
  • CBP Officers are now wearing name tags so they can be easily identified for complaint letters.
  • Body scan machines can now take the place of pat-down inspections.

My organization, CEADA, which has been abolished, ultimate goals were to form “Citizen Review Boards” which should look at the following actions:

  • Urge the Senate and Congress to take immediate action and order GAO investigations and conduct hearings into the internal practices of the agency especially the new harsh Table of Offenses under DHS.
  • Urge legislators to hire sociologists and psychologists to study the personal search procedures as suggested by the June 2000 Independent Panel Report.
  • Urge legislators to hire outside contract workers to give mandatory training (integrity, sensitivity, cultural diversity, EEO Awareness - Sexual Harassment, Sexism, Sex and Race Discrimination) as suggested by the 2000 Independent Panel Report.
  • Ensure minority female supervisors (front-line, first-line) are recruited throughout the agency.
  • Review body scanner machines which are showing the private parts of travelers and are only manned by supervisors which are usually males.
  • Ensure that the two hour rule is enforced giving travelers the right to contact a person of their choosing after they have been escorted into search rooms.
  • Form an independent panel to delete outdated and illegal records from government computers (blacklists).
  • Rehire and compensate all former Customs employees that were terminated under the reign of Customs Commissioner Ray Kelly aka “The Hatchet Man” (over 100 whistleblowers and others).

With the entire nation being in an uproar because of all the spying by NSA, this appointment of Ray Kelly would be extremely bad for the entire nation. If Ray Kelly is appointed, I am pretty sure this country will enter into a total police state. We can’t allow Ray Kelly to take over this important position as the Secretary of Homeland Security so we need to act now before it is too late!

We need everyone to continue to reach out to their legislators from the ground up and reach out to progressive activist and news groups and give your opinions. Let’s use twitter.com, facebook.com and other means of communications to voice our opinions and sign the below petitions:

Cathy Harris is a former U.S. Customs Service Whistleblower, Author, Speaker and Coach. She can be reached through her empowerment company, Angels Press, P.O. Box 5288, Atlanta, GA 31107, phone: (770) 873-2072, website: http://www.angelspress.com, email: info@angelspress.com.



Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Don't Force Businesses to Pay Interns

A recent ruling against Fox Searchlight Pictures from a lawsuit where former interns sued the company because they weren't compensated with the minimum wage -- and a host of other class action lawsuits from former interns of companies ranging from Warner Music Group and Atlantic Records to Conde Nast Publications -- may seem like a David vs. Goliath story. However, the actions of these interns are going to end up hurting students all across the country -- and ultimately our country's competitive edge.
At some point, many people in our country crossed the line that separated respecting money and worshiping money. However, now we are in a precarious position where we may cross a line of no return. That line is the one where people think that the only thing that has value is money.

Before money was created, individuals mutually bartered goods, services and time. Even now, small businesses facing cash flow issues are looking to alternative ways to fund their businesses, such as collaborating on marketing endeavors instead of using marketing dollars. But now a bevy of short-sighted interns and even shorter-sighted courts have become blind to the alternate benefits that you can garner in exchange for work.

The majority of students -- or those who apply for internships -- often have little-to-no relevant skills. Internships are a fantastic way for a student or other low skilled individuals to get a taste of a real work environment. They can see up-close-and-personally if a particular industry or company is a good fit for them. They can make key relationships that can provide a lead to or a recommendation for a future job, or even some ongoing career insight and guidance. And whether they pick up real skills or experience, or just create the perception that they have some, these real-world opportunities give students an advantage in being hired. Sometimes, an internship even leads to a permanent position at that very company. An internship isn't just valuable; as MasterCard would say … it's

However, interns, whether skilled or not, create a measurable burden on the companies where they "work." Even without compensating them, interns create time costs, opportunity costs and often monetary costs for those who have to take the time to house and train them. The internship provider may get some low-skilled tasks accomplished, but they give up a lot to provide training and insight, particularly to someone that they know likely won't be working there at the end of a short stint.

Forcing businesses to pay the minimum wage for interns ignores both the costs incurred by the host business and the value received by the intern. Ultimately, it will lead to fewer businesses offering internships, as they weigh the cost of having to pay the interns in conjunction with the soft costs of having interns to conclude that it isn't worth it. The ones who lose out in this scenario in the short-term are the students. In the long term, we all lose out, as we have less prepared individuals entering the workforce.

We should be encouraging more -- not fewer -- internships for students. Students should be urged to try out several positions with a variety of companies in different industries during their studies. This gives them a broader network and more insight into where they can make the best impact post-graduation or after a job switch. However, these lawsuits and the narrow judgment of all involved threaten that reality.

It's time to pass a law to allow companies to "hire" unpaid interns at mutual discretion. If both parties agree upfront that they are getting value from the arrangement, the government should not intervene. That's what free market capitalism is all about. If we don't, we risk hurting students and other interns -- the very individuals that the legislators and courts are trying to protect.

This story originally appeared on CNBC

Monday, March 18, 2013

Black Farmers Still Waiting for Settlement Money

Deborah Barfield Berry, Gannett Washington Bureau, March 18, 2013

Black farmers who were denied loans by federal agriculture officials are still waiting for money from a class-action discrimination settlement signed into law in 2010.
WASHINGTON – More than two years after President Obama signed a law compensating black farmers for decades of discrimination by federal agriculture officials, the farmers are still waiting for their money.

"It should not have taken this long,'' said Thomas Burrell, president of the Black Farmers and Agriculturists Association. "Justice delayed is justice denied.''

Farmers in Louisiana, Mississippi and other states say they've waited long enough.

"We have not received not one penny," said Mildred Jackson, 81,who owns a family farm in Evergreen, La. "They've been doing reviews since last year... I'm sure they have a lot of lawyers working on it. Why is it taking so long?''

Jackson is among an estimated 40,000 black farmers claiming money from the $1.2 billion settlement, which ended a landmark discrimination case against the federal Agriculture Department.
The case said the agency denied loans and other assistance to black farmers because of their race.

Most claims are from Mississippi and Alabama. Many others come from Louisiana and other Southern states. The deadline to file a claim was last May.

The claims are being reviewed by a court-approved mediation and arbitration firm. Lawyers hope the process will be finished by April.

"Everyone involved in the process is doing everything they reasonably can do to get the process completed at the earliest possible time,'' said Andrew Marks, one of three lead attorneys representing farmers. "I hope by no later than early summer the process will be completed and that successful claimants will receive their awards.''

Congress approved the $1.2 billion settlement in 2010 in what has become known as "the Pigford case."

The settlement marks the second round of payments for black farmers. Thousands received payments as part of a 1999 class-action settlement.

The second round will pay farmers who missed the first filing deadline. The maximum payment is $62,500, including $50,000 for the claim and $12,500 for taxes, Marks said. The amount depends in part on the number of successful claims.

Farmers originally were told payments would arrive by late 2012.

John Boyd, president of the National Black Farmers Association, said his office gets daily calls from farmers asking when they will get their check.

"It's very frustrating,'' he said. "But I'm hopeful that the farmers do get the settlement and are able to put the funds to use and make a difference in their lives... They're not going to get their farms back, but if you can't pay your light bill it could make a difference on your bottom line. ''

Macie Donaldson Wiggins, 82, who once grew corn, cotton and soybeans on her family's farm in Prairie, Miss., said she filed for money from the 1999 class-action case but was told she was too late.

"It bothered me... (but) I just went on,'' she said.

Wiggins said she was excited to learn years later she could resubmit her claim. She wants to buy a hospital-style bed to help relieve breathing problems caused by her asthma.

"I've already got it planned out,'' said Wiggins, who now lives in Aberdeen. "I didn't think it was going to take this long.''

She recalled years of discrimination against black farmers by federal agriculture officials. Wiggins said her first husband, Eddie Donaldson, was denied loans in the 1990s and had to go to a community bank to borrow money. Meanwhile, she said, white neighbors received loans.

"There were a whole lot of colored people they did that way,'' she said.

Jackson, of Louisiana, said she wrote letters to the Agriculture Department in the 1970s complaining local officials weren't lending to black farmers in Avoyelles Parish. She said the situation improved after federal officials visited the parish and met with black farmers, but loan approvals were slow.

"By that time it was almost too late to get your land ready and planted,'' said Jackson, who grew soybeans and potatoes and raised cattle.

Louisiana state Rep. Roy Burrell, D-2nd District, which includes Shreveport, said he's concerned about the slow pace of the settlement process. Burrell (no relation to Thomas Burrell) said he introduced a bill in 2009 to set aside money for informational conferences on the process and other concerns, but the money wasn't approved.

"Louisiana has done nothing for its black farmers,'' said Burrell. "Everywhere you turn you're running into an institutional brick wall. So I can imagine what a black farmer with limited education is going through when he is trying to protect the assets and the legacy for his family — which is his farm.''

Burrell said farmers have raised concerns about losing their farms while waiting for settlement
payments. He said he has held teleconferences with key officials, including the state attorney general's office.

There is an "overall travesty that has taken place with black farmers throughout the nation,'' he said.
The Black Farmers and Agriculturalists Association has held informational meetings across the South, including Hattiesburg and West Point, Miss. A March 21 meeting is planned in Baton Rouge.

Thomas Burrell, the association's president, and other farmers complain attorneys will get a big chunk of the settlement, which allows 4.1% to 7.4% in attorney fees. The court has not determined that amount yet.

Meanwhile, Burrell said the slow process has put each black farmer at a disadvantage.
"The longer it takes to pay him — he loses his land, he loses his equipment,'' he said. "Then when you ultimately decide to pay him, he is behind the eight ball - again.''

Etta Jackson, a farmer in Prentis, Miss., says she hasn't received any updates about her claim. She was among the late filers in the first round, so she filed an application in the 2010 case.

"Sometimes, I don't believe I'm going to get anything,'' said Jackson, 58, who grows peas, beans, watermelons and peanuts. "God is good all the time, but Lord have mercy, how long is this going to take?''

Monday, January 28, 2013

American Idol Racist? Booted Contestants Submit Complaint, May Lead to a Lawsuit

American Idol clearly gives the boot to contestants for lacking the right vocal chops. But did the show ax several former hopefuls because they were black?

 That's what nine erstwhile Idol hopefuls are claiming in a complaint filed against the show alleging that racism played a role in their ouster in an attempt to juice up ratings. They include Corey Clark and Jaered Andrews from season two; Donnie Williams from season three; twins Terrell and Derrell Brittenum from season five; Thomas Daniels and Akron Watson from season six; Ju'Not Joyner from season eight; and Chris Golightly from season nine.

Attorney James Freeman confirms to E! News that he has submitted a complaint to the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on behalf the former contestants.

Among other allegations, we have taken the position that there are continuing violations of the U.S. Constitution and we are asking the commission to investigate," Freeman tells E! News. "As of now it is not a lawsuit; it is just a request to the federal government that they investigate."

The jilted contestants allege, per published reports, that the show zeroed in on black contestants with arrest records in order to publicly expose them in an effort to boost ratings.

Clark, for instance, was famously kicked off the show in 2003 after producers discovered he had been arrested for allegedly assaulting his sister. He ultimately lead no contest to obstructing legal process.

Last year, Jones was axed for supposedly lying about his alleged criminal past.

Freemantle Media, which produces American Idol, declined to comment.