IBEW Local 601 Absolved of Discrimination

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IN ITS JUNE/JULY 2007 ISSUE, the Public i published
an article on a lawsuit that Henry Bell
III brought against the International Brotherhood
of Electrical Workers Union Local 601,
the headquarters of which are in Champaign.
Bell, an African American journeyman electrician,
accused the union of two things: discriminating
by not sending him out on a job
when a contractor had asked for a minority
worker, and retaliating against him in subsequent
assignments after he had filed charges.
Bell charged that both of these violated Title
VII of the U.S. Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Initially, Bell was required to bring such
charges to the Equal Employment Opportunity
Commission. This he did. While the
Commission did not find in his favor, it did
give him a right-to-sue letter that permitted
him to bring the complaints before the Federal
District Court in Urbana.
Bell filed two suits against the IBEW
and two suits against two different electrical
contractors. The cases have now been
decided. In one case against the union, the
court granted a summary judgment against
Bell’s accusation in October. Then, in
December, Bell withdrew the other case
and promised not to bring it again. Regarding
the cases against the contractors, Bell
lost one on a summary judgment, and
agreed to a dismissal of the other.
The union’s major defense was that it followed
its clearly articulated procedures for
referring people and that they were not
racially discriminatory. It presented these
procedures to the court as an
exhibit. The judge did not
agree with Bell’s argument
that affirmative action procedures
legally had to override
these in instances such as had
occurred. While the case was
pending, Local 601 officers,
under the advice of their
attorney, would not speak
publicly about it. Their views
were thus not represented in
the original Public i story. It is
thus only fair that we are reporting the absolution
of the union in the court cases.

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