"Meetings with employees focused on the usual business aspects, as well as workplace behavior and culture," said David Caldwell, GM Business Relations Manager. "It meant reaffirming society's firm commitment to a safe, open and inclusive workplace with zero tolerance for intimidating or intolerant behavior."
"This was an opportunity to communicate that all incident reports are taken seriously and are the subject of a thorough investigation," Caldwell said. "In addition, leaders shared their belief in the workforce – that the wrong actions of a few or a few do not represent the entire team, nor the surrounding community."
The factory team supervisors, Marcus Boyd and Derrick Brooks, who worked on different teams, described being threatened and called racist names in the factory.
Boyd said that racial threats and insults are a regular part of working life.
Brooks said he found a noose in the area where he worked. As the only black employee in his workspace, he thought that this was meant to intimidate him.
In total, five nooses were found and reported to GM, according to the lawsuit.
Boyd left his position at GM after claiming that his life was in danger while he was working there. He said the guards had to watch him come in and out of the factory for his own protection. Boyd told CNN Monday night that he was happy that Barra made the trip, but that should have happened before the situation.
"I congratulate the GM executives on going to the Toledo generator today, the workers deserve it, and my questions are: Why has this been so far? it took several incidents over the years for it to be settled? " Said Boyd. "Why did I have to leave my career because [of] racial hostility in the work environment? Why was it not taken seriously when these incidents were reported repeatedly? Diversity and inclusiveness should be more than a general statement. "
Attorney Michelle Vocht, a lawyer for more than half a dozen clients who are suing GM against racial discrimination and harassment, acknowledged GM's progress at the plant visit.
"It is high time that the GM summit begins to recognize the existence of a problem." The appearance of Mary Barra, CEO, is a start, but GM must do much more than that, "said Vocht. .
Vocht said that she thought GM should have done more in the beginning.
"What happened goes beyond a simple meeting, a press release and the repeated repetition of zero tolerance." They were supposed to have a zero tolerance policy when nodes were suspended, they had a zero tolerance when African Americans were suffering in their workplace, when the N-word was written on the walls and stalls of the bathrooms.Zero tolerance should mean what is said.ZERO tolerance " said Vocht.
The complaint, filed by several current and former GM employees, contained detailed allegations about a workplace where people claimed that the bathrooms were reserved for "whites", where black supervisors were denounced as "boys" and ignored by their subordinates, and where black employees were called "monkey" or said to "return to Africa". According to the complaint, black employees would have been warned that the "daddy" of a white colleague was at the Ku Klux Klan. White workers would wear shirts with Nazi symbols under their coveralls.
The lawsuit stated that the company had allowed "an underlying atmosphere of violent racial hatred and intimidation."
GM declined to be interviewed for the initial CNN story, but provided a statement in which she rejected the judicial characterization of the factory atmosphere.
After the story gained ground on social media, after many comments criticizing GM, the company released another statement.
"We are outraged that anyone is subjected to racist behavior, we have a zero tolerance for discrimination – we are not what we are, we are working to eliminate this in our workplaces," writes GM's Twitter account. several people on the social media platform.
Other Toledo factory workers have lodged a complaint with the Civil Rights Commission of Ohio. The commission, which enforces state laws against discrimination, announced the results of a nine-month survey conducted last March: GM allowed a hostile racist environment. GM appealed the decision, but it was confirmed.
Darlene Sweeney-Newbern, director of regional operations of the commission, told CNN that racist behavior was so prevalent at Toledo Powertrain, the GM factory, that she would rank it among the worst cases that her team had. known. She recalled that during a meeting on the placement of the flowing nodes, a white supervisor said that an "agreement too important" had been reached.
After his visit to the factory, Sweeney-Newbern said in a statement that the commission had estimated "more likely than unlikely that the management of General Motors would not act sufficiently quickly and seriously when wrongful acts of discrimination took place in their factory in Toledo ".
"We hope that this increased emphasis on fighting discrimination on the part of the GM CEO will result in a more serious and deliberate effort to eliminate discrimination in the future," she said.
General Motors is also offering a $ 25,000 reward for information on so-called "no-white" signers and signs at the factory, and said the company had continued to investigate the charges.
In a letter to the Vice President of Manufacturing and Labor Relations in North America, Toledo Mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz said he was delighted to learn that action was being taken to address these issues. accusations. These actions included a situation survey, retraining of HR professionals and employees on appropriate responses to allegations of discrimination, as well as a bi-annual survey of workplace culture with a plan. follow-up action to respond to the results.
He also said that GM was conducting a survey of its staff to thoroughly analyze the attitudes and feelings of employees to determine if the culture could be improved. The company invests time and resources in improving the culture. and will use the director of diversity inclusion of the city to participate in the survey.
Carolyn Sung from CNN contributed to this report.