ST. LOUIS, Mo. – The Webster Community for Non-violent Social Action celebrated Black History Month with a forum titled, “Justice: Not Just in February.”

The speakers included Traci Williams, secretary treasurer of Local 6355, Communication Workers of America; Charlie Hatcher, organizing director, Local 50, Service Employees International Union; and Precious Carlock, a first-year student at Webster University.

In her remarks, Williams spoke about sexism and racism in the workplace. “A study by the Federal Glass Ceiling Commission, found that 97 percent of senior managers of Fortune 1000 corporations are white and at least 95 percent are male.” She said the commission also found that, on average, African Americans earn an astounding 21 percent less than their white counterparts for comparable work.

Williams said the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission received more than 80,000 complaints charging workplace discrimination in fiscal year 2001.

“More than a third of these claims were by African Americans who had suffered racist discrimination on their jobs,” she said. Nearly one-third of the claims charged sexual discrimination.

Local 50 is in the midst of contract negotiations with the Contract Cleaners Association. The negotiations cover 29 janitors at Webster.

“They are all classified as general cleaners,” Hatcher said, but the average wage for male janitors is $8 an hour while female janitors average $7.50. Why are women making less money?” he asked, adding: “Things really haven’t changed that much, have they?”

Hatcher used the example of two janitors at Webster, both classified as “floor technician and building supervisor.” “One makes $13 an hour. The other $8.50. The first one is white, the other one is Black!” he said, angrily. “Yes, there is much yet to be done.”

Carlock spoke about the systematic disenfranchisement of African-American voters and incarceration of young Black men. “Even with the Voting Rights Act of 1965, electoral access for minority populations as a whole has been reduced,” she said.

Pointing to the fact that African Americans make up 51 percent of the 1.1 million prison inmates, Carlock said “Out of the 10.4 million Black men of voting age in America, 1.46 million have been disqualified from voting. Disenfranchisement of felons, which disproportionately impacts on the Black community, has, in effect, taken us back 40 years.”