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Black Men Sue to Work Temporary Jobs

Companies want Hispanics not black men for minimum-wage jobs

 One of the reasons why the black-male unemployment rate is so high


By Frederick H. Lowe

Five black men have filed a federal lawsuit seeking class-action status against eight Chicago-area temporary personnel staffing agencies that refused to place African Americans in minimum-wage jobs at the insistence of clients who want to only hire Mexicans and other Hispanics, which is a violation of the amended Civil Rights Act of 1866, the nation’s oldest civil  rights law.

Lawyers in Washington, D.C. and Chicago for Antwoin Hunt, James Zollicoffer, Norman Green, James Lewis and Kevin James, residents of either Chicago’s South and West Sides, filed the lawsuit on December 6th in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois in Chicago.

workerThe lawsuit charges that personnel-placement companies, including Personal Staffing Group LLC (doing business as Most Valuable Personnel or MVP), Segerdahl Graphics Inc.(Segerdahl), Mercury Plastics Inc. (Mercury), MPS  Chicago Inc. ( doing business as Jet Litho), The Penray Companies  Inc. (doing business as Penray), Advertising  Resources Inc. (doing business as ARI Packaging), Lawrence Foods Inc. (Lawrence) and Bloomer Chocolate Company (doing business as Bloomer) have refused to place black male workers on jobs and have instead hired Hispanic, mostly Mexican workers.

Black Men Not Wanted

“MVP, a temporary staffing agency that assigns temporary laborers in its labor pool to its third party client companies for a fee, including defendants Segerdahl, Mercury, Jet, Penray, ARI, Lawrence and Bloomer. Since December 2012, plaintiffs have sought work assignments from MVP’s Cicero branch office to MVP’s client companies, including the defendant client companies, on one or more occasions, defendants were not assigned to one or more of MVP’s client companies because of their race as African Americans,” the lawsuit charged.

When plaintiffs came to the MVP Cicero branch office to seek a work assignment, they often waited in the branch office in an attempt to receive a work assignment, the lawsuit charges.

“During the period from December 2012 to the present, plaintiffs have observed that typically between a quarter and a third of laborers at the MVP Cicero branch office were African American. In that same period, many laborers who appeared Hispanic and spoke Spanish were given work but African Americans were not assigned work,” the lawsuit charged.

Hired African-American workers were given “Do Not Return” or “DNR” within hours of their assignments or at the end of the day by employers.

The client companies used code words, such as “guapos” (pretty boys — ones who don’t want to do dirty work) for black men.  For desired Spanish-speaking workers, the companies used the code word “La Ley” or people who listen to the Spanish radio station La Ley.

“The majority of the MVP Cicero branch office’s recruitment efforts are in predominately Latino neighborhoods and the paid advertisements are placed only in Spanish-language publications in the Chicago area,” the lawsuit alleges. “MVP only or almost exclusively provides rides to the MVP Cicero office for laborers in predominately Latino neighborhoods.

“Plaintiffs are unaware of any vans and/or buses available to transport laborers to MVP’s Cicero office from predominately African- American communities on the West Side, where Hunt, Zollicoffer and Green reside and from the South Side where plaintiffs Lewis and James reside or have resided.”

Jobs Pay Minimum Wage

MVP provides workers for client companies with low and moderately skilled laborers to fill jobs on a daily basis through the MVP Cicero branch. The jobs pay $8.25 per hour but are essential for men with little or no work experience or criminal backgrounds who are attempting to get into the workforce.

Christopher J. Williams, a lawyer with the Workers’s Law Office, P.C. in Chicago, said the class will be comprised of about 7,000 individuals and the class should be certified in five to six months.The temporary labor market is one of the fastest-growing sectors of the job market.

Black men 20 years old and older suffer the nation’s highest unemployment rate, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The lawsuit uncovers a major reason why there is such a high unemployment rate among black men in the Chicago area. At the U-Haul  truck  rental facility on North Broadway in Chicago, Hispanics and whites work in the store but black men wait across the street and ask customers if they need help moving.

The lawsuit arises under the Civil Rights Act of 1866, as amended by Section 1981, which prohibits discrimination in employment.

In addition to seeking class-action status, it seeks to enjoin MVP from discriminating against African-American workers. In addition, the lawsuit seeks back pay, interest, lawyer fees and other non-liquidated benefits from denial of employment.



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