Ingalls Workers Allege Racial Slurs and Intimidation

The lawsuit asks for monetary damages but doesn't specify a figure. The suit wants the court to order the shipyard to obey federal civil rights laws. The attorneys, one from Greenville and two from San Francisco, say hundreds of millions of tax dollars are being spent not only to build ships at Ingalls, but to maintain a racially hostile work environment.

Ingalls employee Brian Thompson says on March 15, he found a noose in his work station. Thomposon says white workers often taunt black employees with nooses. He says racial graffitti and threatening drawings are always on the bathroom walls.

"Upon entering the restroom facility and reading the writings on the walls, I was shocked and upset over what I had just witnessed," Thompson says.

Thompson is one of 11 shipyard workers suing Ingalls for civil rights violations. One of the attorneys alleges the behavior that Ingalls management allows to occur intimidates black workers and racial slurs create a hate filled work environment.

"Slogans like 'kill all niggers, crime will drop 98-percent,' are left to remind African Americans at Ingalls that they are still living in a time when racial terror is condoned even where they work," attorney Jeribu Hil says.

"What we've seen here, this exhibition is by far the most astounding and bothersome of my legal career," San Francisco attorney Bill McNeill said.

The attorneys says some workers have been threatened and fear for their lives.

"Everyday of their working lives, plaintiffs in this lawsuit are forced to relive the horrors of one of the darkest periods of this nation's history, slavery. Those who hang nooses often carry out mock lynchings," Hill said.

The employees say while racism is rampant in the shipyard, promotions among blacks are rare. Rebecca Lewis says she was led to believe that completing an apprentice program would put her in line for a promotion. Instead, she says, all she got was rejection letters.

"So what is it gonna take to be treated fairly? That's all that we ask. We're not asking them to give us anything. This is what we have deserved. We have earned this," Lewis says.

No date has been set to hear the lawsuit.

We talked to Ingalls Vice-President Den Knecht about the lawsuit. He told us "We believe the lawsuit has no merit. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, in investigating these charges, ruled earlier this year that there is no reasonable cause to support these same or similar accusations.

"Ingalls does not tolerate discrimination. We have an effective program for hearing all complaints and dealing with them quickly and equitably."

The workers attorneys say the EEOC did find that graffiti on the bathroom walls subjects the employees to a racially hostile environment. Knecht says as soon as they find graffiti, they remove it.