Fighting Discrimination at the Jails!

Ali Fuhrman, President, Minneapolis Central Library

Workers in the Central Records of the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office achieved a major win in March when a manager who had harassed and intimidated workers for years was finally held ac-countable and removed her position there.

This victory came after outrage over an email Captain Kathy Hughes, the head of Central Records, sent on February 11th entitled "Central Records Complaints and On-Going Issues." In this email she lay the blame for all the problems with discrimination and harassment in Central Records at the feet of workers.

In the email she accused workers of being racist for speaking up against racism, prohibiting workers from “Making racial comments. For example: ‘they let her go early because she’s white or they won’t promote him because he is black.” She also directed workers with concerns to keep silent: “If there are issues going on start with yourself – look in the mirror."

A number of factors contributed to this victory: years of work laying a foundation of union activity within the work area, a change in Departmental Leadership that seeks to improve working conditions and increase diversity in the Sheriff’s office, and most importantly workers of color openly challenging mismanagement and racial discrimination in the workplace. It is from these individuals’ bravery to speak out, their unwillingness to be silent and their determination to organize for change that this manager was removed. Moving one individual won’t solve all the problems but it’s a good first step. We are currently organizing a class action non-discrimination and union retaliation grievance in this area. More updates to follow.