Allegations of racism and misogyny at Ironworkers Local 11 in North Jersey have led the state attorney general’s office to issue a finding of probable cause – the first step toward a formal complaint – against the union and its former president Raymond Woodall.
Woodall and his entire leadership team were relieved in July. Former Senate President Steve Sweeney, the first vice president of the International Association of Bridge, Structural, Ornamental and Reinforcing Iron Workers, has taken over as administrator of the local.
According to acting Attorney General Matt Platkin, the Ironworkers local provided preferential job assignments to white union members – longer work assignments that resulted in sturdier wages — permitted racial slurs in the union hall, and retaliated against a Black female member who objected to the slurs and to poor treatment of Black members.
The Black ironworker who complained said that she was given less work after her complaint. Woodall was responsible for job assignments.
“I am deeply troubled by the extremely serious allegations of racial bias uncovered by the Division on Civil Rights’ investigation of Ironworkers Local 11. No New Jerseyan should ever be subject to racial slurs or discriminatory treatment – in the workplace or anywhere else,” Platkin said. “We will never waver in our commitment to fighting racial discrimination in our State. If employers or labor unions, and their leaders, fail to create a work environment free from discrimination, we will hold them accountable.”
The attorney general’s initial finding included use of the “n” word “shine’ were used by union leaders. High-demand jobs, long-term assignments at projects like Newark Airport, Goethals Bridge, Bayonne Bridge, and the American Dream mall construction were regularly given to white ironworkers. Some female ironworkers were referred to as “splittails.”
The Division of Civil Rights’ investigation found that another Black female ironworker was locked in a bathroom for hours, had her buttocks slapped repeatedly, and was given a pink hard hat. Complaints to union leader were ignored.
Instead, those who complained were harassed. Woodall allegedly made prank phone calls that were frequently sexually explicit and included “derogatory impersonations of a stereotypical southern Black man.” The attorney general’s office has obtained a recording of Woodall using racial slurs.
“Racist slurs and favoritism toward white workers are a daily reality for many Black and Brown workers,” said Rosemary DiSavino, Deputy Director of the Division on Civil Rights. “The N.J. Law Against Discrimination offers protection against and a remedy for such abhorrent practices and DCR stands ready to enforce the law and ensure that racism is not tolerated in the workplace.”