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Nucor workers win discrimination suit in Arkansas

http://66.225.205.104/JR20091105.mp3

A federal jury ruled unanimously this week in favor of six employees who allege serious race discrimination at a Nucor steel plant in Arkansas. A very similar case is pending against a Nucor plant in South Carolina. WFAE's Julie Rose reports: The Arkansas jury found Charlotte-based Nucor guilty of racial hostility against black employees. That includes nooses and burning crosses displayed in the steel mill and racially offensive graffiti on bathroom walls. Black workers at Nucor's Berkeley steel plant near Charleston claim white supervisors have frequently referred to them as "bologna lips," "porch monkey" and much worse. Attorney Robert Wiggins says the Arkansas victory bodes well for his clients in the class-action suit in Charleston: "It's the identical pattern of racial slurs and confederate flags and nooses and threats and just general pattern of contempt for black employees," says Wiggins. Nucor denies the worker's allegations and tried to have the class-action status of the lawsuit overturned last month. The court refused. Ironically, Nucor is claiming the Arkansas ruling as a victory because the jury awarded only $1.2 million in damages rather than the $20 million suggested to the jury. The company also says the Arkansas verdict has no impact on the lawsuit at the Charleston plant. Giff Daughtridge is the General Manager of Nucor Steel Berkeley in South Carolina. "We're disappointed in the plaintiff's attorney once again of distorting facts," says Daughtridge. "And we're very proud of our record of adhering very closely to our policy of no harassment or discrimination." Initially the Nucor workers in both Arkansas and South Carolina filed their racial discrimination lawsuit together, but the court divided them into different jurisdictions. The Nucor Berkeley suit in South Carolina was granted class-action status in August. Attorneys say at least 100 Nucor workers will participate in the suit, likely to be heard by a federal jury next year in Charleston.