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Lockheed Employees File Race Suits

May 11, 2000

ATLANTA (AP) _ Eleven black Lockheed Martin employees have filed two lawsuits claiming that they have had to endure racial taunts and discrimination in pay and promotions.

The lawsuits filed Wednesday ask the U.S. District Court to permit two class-action cases on behalf of blacks at the defense contractor’s plants _ one for salaried employees and one for hourly workers.

The plaintiffs’ lawyers said they have more than 100 complaints of discrimination at plants from South Carolina to Texas.

The lawsuits said qualified blacks at Lockheed’s Marietta, Ga., plant have been denied promotions, raises and training while getting substandard salaries and being denied chances for overtime pay. The plaintiffs also allege they were exposed to slurs and have received ``back to Africa″ tickets and nooses placed on their lockers.

Tom Burbage, the top executive at the suburban Atlanta plant, said he could not deny that some of the incidents could have occurred but ``we don’t tolerate it.″

The plaintiffs’ legal team, which includes Los Angeles lawyer Johnnie Cochran Jr., is also suing the International Association of Machinists & Aerospace Workers, claiming that union officials either allowed or collaborated in discrimination.

Burbage said the company is willing to continue to negotiate a settlement with the workers and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The EEOC notified Lockheed Martin last year that its investigation indicated violations might have occurred.

``To date, the EEOC has not shared with us the basis for these findings,″ the company said in a statement Wednesday.

Lockheed Martin, which employs 149,000 workers worldwide at more than 900 plants, submitted a resolution proposal two weeks ago. The details of the offer are confidential, but the plaintiffs’ attorneys characterized it as inadequate.

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