A group of workers say the contractor building Sound Transits University Link light rail tunnel discriminated against black workers. The contractor denies it.
A group of workers say the contractor hired to build Sound Transit's University Link light rail tunnel fired workers based on race. The contractor denies it. Sound Transit

A group of workers who helped build Sound Transit's light rail tunnel between Capitol Hill and the University District say the contractor hired to build the tunnel regularly discriminated against African American workers, the Seattle P.I. reports.

The complaint, filed in federal court in Seattle, charges that superintendents working for Traylor Frontier-Kemper Joint Venture fired African-American workers simply because they were black or made them do "menial tasks" before firing them.

One superintendent for Traylor Frontier-Kemper had a tattoo of a swastika on his hand and referred to African-Americans with racial slurs, the workers say in the complaint filed last week in U.S. District Court.
That superintendent "made a racist remark regarding an experienced African American crane operator, stating words to the effect: 'I'm not having no n***** down here running a crane,'" attorneys wrote in the complaint.

The workers join seven others who sued in 2014 over nearly identical claims. The latest suit is meant to be joined with the 2014 action, said Gregory Hitzel of Teller and Associates, the law firm representing the workers. A court denied the earlier suit's try for class-action status.

(Emphasis mine.)

Sound Transit investigated the claims and found that "African-American workers were dismissed more often and worked fewer hours than white workers" as well as "several cases in which race may have been a factor in a firing or refusal to hire a union-dispatched worker," the P.I. reports. The agency says a civil rights inspector is now assigned to all contracts. The workers are seeking back pay and damages.

The contractor, Traylor Frontier-Kemper Joint Venture, denies the claims and dismisses Sound Transit's investigation. More.

Better transit is essential for Seattle and the entire Puget Sound region. Needless to say, this isn't how it should get built.