The Trump Era

Steel firm that stayed on Trump council until the end knows about racism

John Ferriola is the CEO of steel producer Nucor Corp. and was a member of President Donald Trump's manufacturing council until the president disbanded it this week. Credit: worldsteel/Flickr

As CEOs began to desert President Donald Trump’s manufacturing council this week – but before Trump disbanded it – America’s biggest steel producer stayed put.

On behalf of Nucor Corp. CEO John Ferriola, a spokesperson condemned the “hate, bigotry, and racism” in Charlottesville, Virginia, but said, “We will continue to serve as a member of the White House Manufacturing Jobs Initiative.”

Nucor has other ties to Trump: Its former CEO Dan DiMicco served as Trump’s senior trade adviser and held a leadership role on the presidential transition team. As many critiqued the president’s comments equating white supremacists with those opposing them, DiMicco retweeted messages of support for Trump.

Nucor also has a history with hate, bigotry and racism, court records show.

In separate cases in Arkansas and South Carolina, black steel workers said they faced an onslaught of racial slurs and graffiti by white co-workers, while supervisors participated in or condoned it.

In 2009, a federal jury with one black juror found that the Arkansas plant was indeed a racially hostile workplace. The jury found that Nucor acted with malice or reckless indifference, awarding six black workers a total of $1.2 million in compensation and punitive damages.

At trial, one worker said the harassment made him feel like “less than a man. Less than a person. Embarrassed. Shamed.”

The steel giant isn’t the only company on Trump’s now-defunct panel to face claims of racism. Whirlpool Corp., General Electric Co. and Lockheed Martin Corp. each agreed to pay at least $1 million to settle allegations of workplace racial harassment in the last decade. Boeing Co. is currently fighting a discrimination lawsuit.

But the Nucor allegations stand out, as they implicate a longtime executive who went on to be a top Trump adviser.

DiMicco, before he became CEO, directly managed that Arkansas plant when some of the blatant racism allegedly occurred. Two black workers testified that they complained to DiMicco but that little came of it.

One said DiMicco even listened to a tape recording of a supervisor saying black workers were called “lazy-ass and working-class niggers.” The worker said DiMicco confiscated the tape, scolded him for recording it and failed to follow through on a promise that he wouldn’t have to continue working with the man who used racial epithets.

Nucor and DiMicco did not respond to requests for comment.

At the South Carolina plant, a federal appeals court ruled in 2015 that there was “substantial evidence of unadulterated, consciously articulated, odious racism throughout the Nucor plant, including affirmative actions by supervisors and a widespread attitude of permissiveness of racial hostility.”

“The examples in the record are ubiquitous,” the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit wrote. “Bigoted epithets and monkey noises broadcast across the plant radio system, emails with highly offensive images sent to black workers, a hangman’s noose prominently displayed, a white supervisor stating that ‘niggers aren’t smart enough’ to break production records, and abundant racist graffiti in locker rooms and shared spaces.”

The judges also found evidence indicating that promotions at Nucor depended in part on skin color. They ordered the case certified as a class action and sent it back to district court, where it is pending. Nucor has argued that the case should be thrown out because the company takes “reasonable care to prevent and correct promptly any harassing behavior.”

Will Evans can be reached at wevans@revealnews.org. Follow him on Twitter: @willCIR

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