UNION CITY, Tenn. (May 20, 2004) — Goodyear said it is cooperating fully with local and federal authorities investigating alleged hate crimes against African-American employees at its Union City radial tire plant.
The Associated Press reported that Marshall Brown, a machine cleaner at the Union City facility, entered his work area April 29 to allegedly find a noose and a threatening letter containing racial epithets. Mr. Brown, who contacted the sheriff's office about the incident, has not returned to work since, the AP said.
The AP story also reported other racist incidents that it said black workers reported to supervisors but not to law enforcement officials. Willie Thomas, a janitor at Union City, claimed that three separate times he found a clogged toilet in one of the plant's restrooms, and a racially insulting note scrawled on the wall ordering him to clean up the mess.
Obion County (Tenn.) Sheriff Jerry Vastbinder acknowledged the investigation and said it was ongoing, but declined to comment further to Tire Business on the racial incidents or whether he was close to making arrests. Sheriff Vastbinder said the AP story was correct, but added it came from sources other than his office who tipped off the AP. “We intended to withhold the victims' names for their protection,” he said.
Officials at the Federal Bureau of Investigation branch office in Jackson, Tenn., which also is investigating the Union City incidents, could not be reached for comment.
In a prepared statement, Akron-based Goodyear also declined to comment on the details of the Union City incidents. The tire maker, according to the statement said, “is deeply committed to maintaining a harassment-free environment for its employees. The company has a policy of zero tolerance toward acts of harassment and discrimination in the workplace.”