By Ryan Velez
Every now and then, your boss may say something that has you wondering why you work where you work at all, even if you need that paycheck to get by. Atlanta Black Star reports that for one South Carolina chicken plant, a manager’s racist comment was one slight too many, and hundreds of workers decided to walk out and protest.
Employees of the Gold Kist plant on Highway 15 in Sumter walked out of work Thursday morning due to a racist comment. According to several employees at the plant, the manager called employees “roaches.” Numerous employees who walked out claimed that they had no interest in working in that type of environment. At the moment, there’s no exact context for the manager’s comment, but it’s a safe bet that a manager shouldn’t be making that comparison in any circumstance, racially-charged or not. In footage of the protests, most of the workers appear to be African-American.
“He’s still in there working, that’s why a lot of people don’t want to go back in there because he’s still in there working after he made that comment,” one employee told WIS News. “From someone that’s supposed to run the plant and be professional, for you to say something like that and have the heart to say something like that, it’s wrong,” the employee continued.
Deputies with the Sumter County Sheriff’s Office arrived at the scene to direct traffic. At the moment, there haven’t been any further developments, nor responses from the plant management.
While it’s impressive that the plant workers decided to take a stand, it’s not clear how much of a risk they are taking by walking out. Union power is on the decline in this country, so the workers may have little recourse if they are disciplined or even fired for refusing to work, no matter what the reasoning is. At the moment, it’s not clear if the protesting workers are even unionized at all.
If anything, making a public story out of both the comment and their actions may be a great asset to their job security. With the world watching, they may be able to shame and spur management into removing the offending manager, while keeping the workers from quietly being swept under the rug.