Speaking Out On Racism & Discrimination
by Anita Labossiere, member IFPTE Local 21
at SF PUC Water Pollution Plant
Statement: Update on Dealing with Racism in the Water; Waste Plants
San Francisco Public Utilities Commission
December 1, 2003
I, ANITA LABOSSIERE, HAVE been working for the San Francisco Water Pollution
Control Bureau for over 23 years, as the only African American Supervising
Chemist. In the City & County of San Francisco, there is a well organized
plan to harass any minorities, minority supervisors and employees who
supports us black cases, by the managers of the City.
After I wrote the article in this newspaper, Dealing with Racism in the
Water; Waste Plants
I have been kept away from work by the managers at PUC. They are using
every legal and illegal trick to keep me from returning to work from my
personal leave. I received approval and OK from my first Doctor that I
could return to work. I brought the paper in to Ruby Ponce, and two days
later my Doctor called me up and told that the Managers ( Phil Caskey,
Nirmela Arsem, Michael Lum, working under Therese Madden ) spoke to her
about my medical condition. In all my years of working for the City this
has never happened, where my civil rights are being ignored. And all of
My Civil Service Rights are being smashed. Management manipulated my
Doctor into telling a lie about my medical diagnosis. As of today, in
violation of my doctor/client rights, the entire plant knows about my
Doctorıs diagnosis. (No one at work should have knowledge about my
medical diagnosis - it was confidential, private and personal.)
I stand accused of violence, even though I am not violent in
any way. There is no truth in this diagnosis. Many Doctors completely
misdiagnose a personıs health. In the Black Community, the statistics
are very alarmingly high - showing a lack of understanding of being
Black in a white society. Therese Madden and I have worked together
over the past 18 years, and she knows my work history. This could
have and should have been resolved differently.
This is another attempt by management to take my job - "see the Doctor says
sheıs sick." (My Doctor only said that because City Managers said that
they were going to use this information to help [?] me).
Ten months ago, I had a lone talk with my Director, Phil Caskey, about my
reservations concerning his appointment of Nirmela Arsem - making her my
immediate supervisor. Nirmela Arsem and I have had a very turbulent
relationship, from day one. She has never had any respect for me as her
immediate supervisor even though I was the one who originally hired her. I
felt that Nirmela Arsem has never respected me and undermined me, at every
opportunity, when I was her African American Supervisor.
During Nirmela Arsemıs first 4 months of being my manager, she has written
me up for missing one meeting and is taking me through a Skelly Hearing. And
she wants me to get a 10 days suspension. Before Nirmela Arsem become my
supervisor, I got along with everyone and received 5 awards for my quality
assurance program. I should never have to work in this living HELL!!!!!!!
³You are damned if you do and damned if donıt.²
The following poem explains my feelings, I feel like I am a strange fruit
swinginı in the southern breeze:
Southern trees bear a strange fruit
Blood on the leaves and blood at the root
Black bodies swingin' in the southern breeze
Strange fruit hangin' from the poplar trees
Pastoral scene of the gallant south....
PUC Personnel, under Theses Madden & Michael Lum and the Bureau of Water
Quality Managers Phil Caskey & Nirmela Arsem has refused to allow me to
return to work, I was on a leave of absence bought on by stress. There are
many black employees throughout the City are going through what I am going
through - Kevin Williams and Leticia Brown, to name a few. My case is
very typical of how Mayor Willie Brown is ignoring all of the black
employeeıs concerns and even allowing them to be fired on trumped up
charges. Unfortunately, we have not gotten any help from Mayor Brown.
The PUC needs to conduct an immediate and open investigation/hearing, of
this Racism in the Water and Wastewater Plants.