Court: Racist Comments Grounds for Dismissal Unless During Union Activity

U.S. Appeals Court okays workplace racism if it is done in conjunction with union activity.  The Steelworkers Union (AFL-CIO) union defended defended Anthony Runion, the fired employee, who yelled to African-American replacement workers, “Hey, did you bring enough KFC for everybody?” and, “Hey anybody smell that? I smell fried chicken and watermelon.”  

No employee should forced to pay dues to a union that defends racist activities. Nor, should an employee be forced to be represented by such a union under a monopoly-bargaining contract.

In Cooper Tire & Rubber Co. v. NLRB, an employee on strike made a number of racist comments while on the picket line directed at African-American replacement workers. Other employees overheard the employee asking whether he smelled fried chicken and watermelon when a van carrying the replacement workers approached the picket line. After the employer learned of these comments, it terminated the employee for violation of its harassment policy. The employee filed a grievance and eventually an unfair labor practice charge with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).

The dissenting judge’s opinion:

Circuit Judge, dissenting:  No employer in America is or can be required to employ a racial bigot. Indeed,as amicus curae National Association of Manufacturers aptly points out, the court’s requiring of the petitioner to do so here, “is tantamount to requiring that Cooper Tire violate federal anti-discrimination and harassment laws, including Title VII and [42U.S.C. §] 1981, as well as numerous other similar state and local laws.”

more information about this case can be found at the