Black 476 member charges white union members with racial harassment

Two grisly photographs of the mutilation of a dead black man and an ominous caption given to an African-American Local 476 member by two white union members working on Paramount’s “The Weatherman” has led to charges of racial harassment on work sites over which the union has control.

Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law (CLCCRUL), representing the African American union member, is asking for a mechanism to eliminate discrimination and harassment within the union, including appropriate disciplinary action for the perpetrators.

The charges revolve around a March encounter in the early morning on a Northwest Side set of “The Weatherman.” The African American union member claimed that while he was working two white male union members approached him. Without saying a word, they handed him two gruesome color photographs with a written caption and walked away.

In one photo, a decapitated black man is sprawled on a bloodied street; his arms positioned, perhaps by a police officer, to hide the horrifying decapitation. In the second photo, the dead man’s severed head has been stuck on the spiked end of an iron rod of a black gate.

The African American interpreted the caption, which read “Live by the sword, die by the sword,” as an ominous warning, the CLCCRUL lawyer stated.

Local 476 is said to have responded to the CLCCRUL complaint by stating it believes all employees have the right to work free of harassment, although it does not believe it has an obligation to prevent racial harassment in the workplace.

Paramount, meanwhile, is conducting an investigation of the incident, according to the CLCCRUL lawyer. There is a range of severity within Paramount’s discretion, he said, such as the issuing a simple reprimand for any conduct they deem inappropriate, holding training sessions on what constitutes inappropriate conduct, or imposing more severe discipline, such as discharge and refusal to rehire.

Rather than launch its own investigation, Local 476 is said to be awaiting the results of Paramount’s inquiry before determining what, if any, action is necessitated on its part.

Neither white union member was concerned about reprimands nor more dire consequences after they achieved the desired reaction from the victim, the CLCCRUL lawyer said. Both young men have strong family ties to Local 476.

The CLCCRUL attorney said they are hoping to achieve a satisfactory resolution. It is not their intention to bring legal action as long as the problem is suitably and promptly rectified.

Neither Local 476, the union’s attorney or Paramount Studios returned ReelChicago’s phone calls for comment.?Ruth L Ratny