Special to LaborNet
PUC decides to get serious about an
Investigation of Racism within its ranks
by Roland Sheppard
IN THE JUNE 9TH ISSUE OF the San Francisco Bay View, Anita Labossiere and I
wrote the article "Southeast sewage plant: pollution and prejudice work
together as weapons of mass destruction." In that article we invited all to
"protest racism against Black workers at the PUC Tuesday, 1:30 pm, Room 400
As you may be aware, from reading the Bay View, at the regular Meeting of
the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission that was held in December,
promises were made to begin an investigation of racism at the water
In the June 9th article, we explained that these promises were never kept.
At the regular meeting of the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission that
was held on June 8, 2004, things went a little bit differently than at past
meetings of the PUC. At these previous meetings it was only Anita and myself
addressing the problems of racism at the Southeast Water Treatment Plant
(SWTP) that were directed towards her and the Bay View Hunters Point (BVHP)
community. We had to use the agenda point: "public comment" to address these
At 6/8 meeting, in addition to Anita and myself,many of the speakers, who
were representative of the Bay View Hunters Point Communities addressed this
issue. Kevin Wiliams, Espanola Jackson, Marie Harrison, Francisco Da Costa,
Charlie Walker and others all explained the long history of racism involving
the PUC, the Southeast Water Treatment Plant, and the problems that they
have had with the staff of the Southeast Water Treatment Plant in general
and Anita's case in specific. They also talked about how these problems need
a thorough investigation and that the Justice Department may have to be
As a result of this demonstration from at united community, two
commissioners, Robert J. Costello and Ryan L. Brooks, along with the Acting
Manager of the PUC, were assigned to begin an investigation of the problems
and issues of racism within the PUC and of the SWTP and its staff. These
commissioners along with the Acting Manager are to report their findings at
every PUC Board Meeting for the foreseeable future, under a special agenda
point. (From now on we will not be relegated to the "public comment" point
on the agenda.)
That was Tuesday. On Thursday, Anita, her daughter,Ayanna, Lonnie Butler,
and I attended a ≥Skelly Hearing≤ which was called by the PUC staff to
suspend Anita from work for 30 days. At this hearing, Anita made a motion
that it was in the staff's best interests that the Skelly hearing be
postponed, due to the fact that the Public Utilities Commission was
conducting an investigation.
(During the course of helping to represent Anita Labossiere at this hearing,
I was informed and surprised that Niermela Arsem, one of the people against
whom Anita has filed an EEOC complaint, was actually a Vice-President of one
of † Professional & Technical Engineers (IFPTE) Local 21 chapters and a
"sister" in the union!
I then wrote a letter to Local 21's 'executive director," David Novogrodsky
stating: "I think that I now understand why the union has been so
conspicuously absent from all demonstrations and PUC meetings when this case
was discussed, and why you told me, when you walked through a picket line in
support of Anita's case, that 'the union has no problem with work rule 120.'
It is known as Sec. 120.22 Compulsory Sick Leave, which an absent, so far
unnamed, supervisor had evoked against Sister Anita. The way the rule is
being interpreted in Sister Anita's case, the appointing officer or designee
has the right to discriminate against any employee. It may be a 'rule,' but
to me it is a rule that is in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights
The PUC staff did not postpone the hearing. We then recessed the meeting to
notify the the PUC upstairs of Anita's statement to the hearing: † "I have
no other choice, but to contact the two commissioners, (Costello and Brooks)
along with the Acting Manager, and † the President of the Commission, Dennis
Normandy, to inform them of your decision not to postpone. And I may have to
possibly call in the Department of Justice."
When the hearing reconvened, Tamara Lowery Jones, Senior Personal Analyst,
for the PUC then read the PUC staff's charges against Anita.
(I was astounded, that Tamara Jones, speaking for the PUC, could not even
reply to the question "Does an employee have a right to file a complaint to
the EEOC?" [Rights under Title VII law are supposed to be posted at every
Anita then gave the following statement to the Skelly "Hearing":
Dear sirs and/or madams:
I am enclosing several documents in writing that present my rebuttals to the
charges before me.
I consider this hearing and the proposed 30 day suspension to be a further
violation of my civil rights, a violation of Title VII of the civil rights
act, an illegal retaliation for exercising my rights, an illegal retaliation
in violation of my "whistle blower" rights, and a further violation of my
rights to a safe and nonracial work environment.
Or is it the opinion of my "superiors" that I do not have a right to
complain to the EEOC? Or to the take necessary steps to prepare my complaint
for the EEOC?
In addition, I wish to to state for the record that, since Phil Caskey was
made director, my assignments/workload have been almost completely
diminished, even though I have won several awards for my work during my 24
years of service to the city. This is/was a further violation of my rights
to equal treatment in the workplace and an equal work environment. I have a
right to carry my share of the load!
I can only assume that the management has the intent to make me redundant,
so that they can easily get rid of me. And that these "kangaroo" hearings
are just part of this process.
Given the uncompromising stance of the PUC staff, we then adjourned the
The ball is now in the court of the PUC. What they do is dependent on how
the community supports Anita and supports itself. It the BVHP community
stays united on this issue and keeps applying its pressure, then Anita will
win her case and in addition the promises for jobs and a cleaner environment
made in the past to BVHP will finally be made true.