NAACP President Refuses to Speak at OSU; Racism FuelsAnti-Unionism

Yoshie Furuhashi furuhashi.1 at
Tue May 2 04:52:05 MDT 2000

May 2, 2000
Columbus, Ohio
For more info, contact Yoshie Furuhashi (at 614-299-3313 / furuhashi.1 at
or Mark D. Stansbery (at 614-252-9255 / walk at
NAACP President Kweisi Mfume Refuses to Speak at OSU;
Racism Fuels Anti-Unionism
Kweisi Mfume, president and CEO of the National Association for the Advancement
of Colored People, was scheduled to give the keynote address of the sixth annual
Big 10 and Statewide Conference, which will take place from 9 AM to 2:30 PM
today at the Ohio State University. Upon being alerted by T.J. Ghose (an OSU
graduate student and member of Students for Equal Rights and Justice) to the
OSU's maltreatment of the predominantly African-American Local 4501,
Communications Workers of America, however, Mfume declined to speak at the Ohio
Union as scheduled today. The theme of the conference is, ironically, "Racial
Legacies and Learning: Bridging the Political, Educational, and Economic
Divide." Mfume's absence, unionists and supporters argue, should call attention
to the widening political and economic divide between largely white OSU
management and predominantly black members of Local 4501 - the divide that
cannot be bridged by conference speeches and papers.
In fact, since the beginning of the strike of Local 4501, it has become more
evident than ever that racism fuels anti-unionism and vice versa. Doug
Edmondson, a striker who works for physical facility, had a painful experience
yesterday. When Edmondson attempted to talk with a young white student bus
driver serving as a scab, the young white man mockingly replied to Edmondson:
"Don't worry, you'll go back to scrubbing toilets in a couple of weeks."
Edmondson, though, is not a custodian but a skilled worker who handles heating,
refrigeration, and air conditioning. Edmondson wryly remarks: "He assumed that
I'm a janitor, because I am black." Besides endangering the safety of bus riders
by hiring poorly trained drivers, who may even lack a commercial driver's
license, in its zeal to crush the strike, the OSU management may be, unionists
and supporters wonder aloud, exploiting racism to encourage scabbing.

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