A New Jersey ironworkers labor union is facing allegations that it discriminated against union members based on race, sexual orientation and gender.

New Jersey attorney general Matthew Platkin and Sundeep Iyer, director of the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights (DCR), submitted a lawsuit against Ironworkers Local 11 and a previous business manager in late June following a complaint from Kesha Green, a former ironworker and Local 11 member. Local 11, based in Bloomfield, New Jersey, maintains a union hiring hall tasked with receiving requests for ironwork assignments from contractors and referring job assignments to union members.

New Jersey-based Ironworkers Local 11 is facing allegations that it discriminated against union members based on race, sexual orientation and gender. Photo: Google Earth.

According to the lawsuit, “Local 11’s leaders and members have created and maintained a hostile work environment that has resulted in unlawful discrimination against union members based on race, sexual orientation and sex. Local 11 has failed to take prompt and effective action to prevent, stop or remedy that hostile environment.”

The allegations follow a 2022 DCR investigation into Green’s claims, which examined allegations that Local 11 fostered a discriminatory and hostile work environment. The lawsuit claims that union officials discriminated against Black union members, who were systematically bypassed and given less desirable job assignments when they were selected. DCR found probable cause to credit Green’s allegations.

The investigation revealed a vitriolic environment where Local 11 leadership, employees and members—including defendant Raymond Woodall, who served as Local 11’s business manager from 2008 to 2022—used racial slurs and homophobic and sexist language in the workplace. DCR officials say their investigation found that Local 11’s leadership permitted members to say discriminatory language repeatedly. Officials add that Local 11 took no effective action to investigate, stop, prevent or remedy racist, homophobic and sexist conduct or to address complaints from Local 11’s members, employees or officers.

The lawsuit alleges numerous instances of hostile behaviors, including

  • Allegations by a former Black female union member that non-Black male co-workers called her racist names, locked her in the bathroom for hours and repeatedly smacked her on the buttocks;
  • Allegations that, from 2016 onwards, a Local 11 business agent kept a nude female mannequin hanging from a closet in the Bloomfield Union Hall;
  • Allegations from a male former Local 11 member that Woodall commonly referred to women as “split tails.” He also often made intimidating comments threatening to “take care of” anyone who pursued complaints about him to “the international,” and he made “prank” phone calls to staff and constituents that were often either sexually explicit or contained derogatory impersonations of a stereotypical southern Black man.
  • Allegations that pornographic materials were taped to work computers;
  • Allegations that Woodall frequently used racist and sexist slurs and repeatedly failed to address racist, sexist and homophobic slurs. He and other members are accused of repeatedly calling Black members the “n” word; and
  • Allegations that Local 11 engaged in a systematic pattern or practice of bypassing Black members in favor of non-Black members who signed the referral book later. According to court documents, “Between Aug. 20, 2018, and Nov. 25, 2019, there were at least 54 instances, out of 348 entries for Black members, where Black members were passed over in favor of a non-Black member despite signing the referral book before the non-Black union member, resulting in the non-Black member who signed after the Black member receiving a referral earlier than the Black member.” The practice resulted in 343 days of lost work for Black members.

Local 11 relieved its leadership team in 2022, including Woodall, who was also the vice president of the New Jersey Building & Construction Trades Council. In response to DCR’s investigation in 2022, Local 11 denied the allegations of race-based discrimination, hostile work environment and retaliation.

Per court documents, the plaintiffs seek, among other things, a permanent injunction prohibiting the defendants from engaging in conduct or other employment practices that create a hostile work environment due to discrimination on race, sexual orientation and sex. The plaintiffs also seek compensatory damages for economic loss and other harms suffered by named and unnamed victims of defendants’ discriminatory practices and policies, as well as civil penalties for defendants’ violations of the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination.

1 Comment

  1. The union has played out its usefulness. No one can argue that unions played a vital role in workplace safety and much improved safety practices. But that was genarations ago. Today it seems they promote greed, poor quality and unaccountability for a lack of efficient production. They are no longer useful.

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