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Coke’s not it: 16 workers sue, call giant ‘cesspool’ of racial discrimination

Coke’s not it: 16 workers sue, call giant ‘cesspool’ of racial discrimination;
Say they were given lesser assignments, unfairly disciplined and retaliated against for complaining
By John Marzulli | New York Daily News | March 16, 2012

Stop Coke Discrimination

Sixteen black and Hispanic production workers are suing Coca-Cola, claiming they have been forced to work in a " cesspool of racial discrimination."

The suit, filed in Brooklyn Federal Court, accuses the company of relegating minorities to less favorable assignments, unfair disciplinary action and retaliation for complaining.<

"Coca-Cola circles its wagons and calls (the plaintiffs) ‘nuts’ and ‘ingrates,’ " said their lawyer, Steven Morelli.

Several plaintiffs say they were subjected to racial epithets, and the people who used them went unpunished, according to the complaint.

The suits are centered on two production plants — one in Maspeth, Queens, and another in Elmsford in Westchester.

Sondra Walker said that when she was hired as a merchandiser at the Maspeth plant, she felt like she "had hit Lotto" because Coca Cola is such a prestigious company.

"I’ve never been called so many names as I have been at Coca-Cola," Walker told the Daily News, citing "Nappy Head" and "Aunt JaMamma" as examples.

Walker describes in the complaint an incident when a white worker wore a Confederate flag on his head and another in which a white employee complaining about cleaning a sewer allegedly said: "What am I, a n—– or something?"

"I thought this was a fair and honest company, as American as apple pie," said plaintiff Guillermo Nunez, who says he has suffered emotionally because of the treatment. "I thought I had made it. It was my American Dream."

Coca-Cola spokesman Toney Anaya said the company does not tolerate discrimination in the workplace.

"We take this matter seriously and are investigating the allegations," Anaya said in a statement.

jmarzulli@nydailynews.com