|Thursday, September 23, 2004|
No Fear Whistle Awards
Issue awards of shame
By Kenneth Mallory
AFRO Staff Writer
Federal employees who have taken a stand against discrimination within the agencies they work for were recently commended at a ceremony held on Capitol Hill.
Those commended for their willingness to fight the government included John Boyd and Tom Burrell, Black farmers who have alleged racial discrimination against the Department of Agriculture, Matthew Fogg, chief deputy U.S. Marshal, who says he won a $4 million discrimination lawsuit against the U.S. Marshal Service, and Cathy Harris, the author of a book documenting her account as a whistleblower while working for U.S. Customs Department. Also applauded were Carin Memmer, a legally blind woman who asserted the Environmental Protection Agency discriminated against her disability, and Richard Levernier, who said he was demoted after blowing the whistle on the Department of Energy.
“My brothers and sisters, we have come here today because there is injustice in the federal government and we intend to clean it up,” said Dr. Marsha Coleman-Adebayo, an EPA employee who won 2002 lawsuit. Her lawsuit spawned the Notification of Federal Employees Anti-Discrimination and Retaliation (NO FEAR) Act of 2002, which provides sanctions against federal agencies heads who treat their whistle blowing employees unfairly. Additionally, Coleman-Adebayo has established the NO FEAR Institute, which has recently issued a “Report Card on Federal Government Discrimination,” giving failing marks to federal agencies that are not in “compliance” with the act signed by President Bush.
The ceremony also provided an opportunity to issue “No Fear Whistle Awards,” which are awards of shame, to those federal agencies who are not in compliance. The awardees included the U.S. Customs Department, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Equal Opportunity Commission, the U.S. Departments of Agriculture, Justice and Energy, and the Office of Personnel Management.
Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-Texas), one of the politicians in Congress responsible for introducing the NO FEAR legislation, told the audience, “We come today to say that we will not give up. We will not forget and we will do this every single year that there is pain amongst our employees who are crying out and suggesting that discrimination occurs.”
The congresswoman asserted that discrimination occurring in federal agencies was not merely “a color thing,” implying that African Americans were not the only group charging they have been the victims.
Of special concern to many at the Whistle awards was the United States Department of Agriculture. Jackson-Lee cast aspersions on the USDA, stating it was “one of the most notorious violators and abusers of the backs, and toiling and the work of so many.”
The Black Farmers and Agriculturalists Association (BFAA) agree. According to documents provided by BFAA, which represents about 70,000 Black farmers nationwide, the group is suing the USDA for discrimination through “denying and delaying loans and credit to Black farmers and other offenses. They allege that White farmers are given preference in USDA’s loan programs.
Ed Lloyd, spokesman for the USDA said that he could not comment on the pending litigation. “The USDA has developed a very positive record on ensuring that we enforce all of our nation’s civil rights laws,” Lloyd said, adding that USDA is “fully compliant” with the NO FEAR Act.