Racist environment alleged in final days of Kansas City’s Harley-Davidson plant

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The Kansas City branch of the NAACP has charged the Harley-Davidson motor company with creating a racially-charged hostile work environment in the final days of its Kansas City plant.

Black workers claim the company tolerated discrimination and harassment.

African-American contractors for Harley say they've been receiving notes from Harley employees using the N-word or telling them to go back to Africa.

On Friday, the workers showed FOX4 photos they took of a noose displayed on the factory floor and racist messages, including swastikas, repeatedly scrawled on rest room walls.

All of the black employees worked for Syncreon, a contractor Harley-Davidson brought into the plant a few years ago to take over tasks formerly performed by Harley's employees.

This created animosity that never subsided, and black workers claim Syncreon was more likely to hire African-Americans at lower pay than what Harley workers earned.

Emanuel Matthews says working at the plant for two years has been hard. He says he's counted six racist incidents during that time with no corrective action taken by management.

"There was things written on bathroom walls," Matthews said. "I personally saw notes, derogatory notes, that were put into carts for us to process for the (assembly) line that were derogatory. I also saw a rope that was built into a noose. I saw that personally with my eyes."

The NAACP wants Harley-Davidson to investigate at all of its plants to determine if a racist environment is part of its core culture.

The United Steel Workers union represents employees of the contractor, Syncreon, and in a letter to the NAACP, the union says it has received no charges of racism but does not condone harassment or intimidation of any form.

The Kansas City plant is scheduled to permanently close later this month. Harley-Davidson issued the following statement to FOX4 Friday afternoon:

"Harley-Davidson is committed to providing a safe and inclusive workplace for all employees, and we do not tolerate any form of harassment or discrimination. We have a robust and actively enforced Code of Conduct and anti-harassment policy along with well-established processes for employees to report any concerns. Complaints that we were aware of were thoroughly investigated and action was taken based on the findings. As appropriate we also referred incidents and complaints to third-party employers who share our factory. Consistent with our policies and processes, we respond to any information we receive and thoroughly investigate and take action as appropriate. Harley-Davidson has a strong commitment to diversity and inclusion and does not condone any form of harassment or discrimination."

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