Union Will Fold In Bias Settlement

Alison Grant
Plain Dealer Reporter

A laborers' union local that discriminated against black job applicants has agreed to close its doors and sell its union hall to raise money to pay civil damages to the men and women.

The settlement involving Local 496 of the Laborers' International Union of North America is the last chapter in a nearly $2 million judgment reached against the union in 1991 for systematically refusing to hire black workers when the Perry nuclear power plant was under construction more than 20 years ago.

Edward Kramer, the lawyer who represented the 53 people who were members of the class-action lawsuit, said the settlement is apparently the first time in the history of the Civil Rights Act that a discriminating labor union has agreed to shut down as one of the remedies in the case.

"It's been a rough ride," said Ellis Jackson, one of the plaintiffs, who recalled having to sign a sheet at the Laborers' hiring hall that asked for his race. "We feel we got some justice."

The sale of the local's union hall in Madison, some computers and phones is expected to raise about $250,000, which will be distributed among those who filed suit.

They have already received about $1.7 million.

The 18-year legal battle went four times to the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati and once to the U.S. Supreme Court, which refused to hear it.

Two members of the original group of workers have died since the lawsuit was filed in 1984.

Under the settlement agreement approved Wednesday by U.S. District Judge Avern Cohn, the Lake County local must not only liquidate but also "tender back to the Laborers' International Union of North America, AFL-CIO, its charter."

David Millstone, head of the labor and employment practice at Squire Sanders & Dempsey, said he had never seen an instance in which a local union had to dissolve as part of the settlement of a Title VII discrimination case.

Kramer said shutting down the local union was key to a fair resolution.

Return to

(c) All original work copyright 1998. All rights reserved..