Illinois Organizer Accused of Racial Slur

A hotly contested effort to organize St. Mary’s Hospital in E. St. Louis, Ill., took a racially divisive turn Sept. 25 when SMH executives posted a sign with quotes attributed to a union organizer who allegedly used a racial slur to describe SMH’s CEO. The slur allegedly came from Wade Outlaw, a former hospital worker and organizer for the Serv. Employees Int’l Union. Outlaw denied he made the remark. The union is trying to sway a majority of the hospital’s 500 workers to vote for collective bargaining in an election scheduled for Oct. 5.

Outlaw’s alleged remarks are contained in an affidavit signed by a witness who told the Nat’l Labor Relations Bd. that Outlaw referred to CEO Richard Mark, “the head nigger” and that “he wasn’t going to keep us down anymore.” Outlaw also allegedly told the witness, an unidentified drug company representative, that Mark is being investigated by federal authorities for embezzling $150,000, according to the affidavit. Mark said there isn’t an investigation into missing money.

Mark said he authorized the posting of the sign outside the employee cafeteria to rebut SEIU charges that Outlaw had been fired because of his union activity — charges that have led to pressure from local pro-union politicians. “Now they’re accusing me of firing someone for union activities, when in fact, here is what this guy is trying to do to my reputation,” Mark said. “And I felt the truth needed to be known.”

Outlaw said the allegations against him make no sense because of his past work in so-called “social justice” issues.

Rev. Johnny Scott, the president of the E. St. Louis chapter of the NAACP, issued a news release Sept. 27 denouncing SEIU because of Outlaw’s alleged remarks. Scott, a member of the hospital board, called for Outlaw’s removal from SEIU’s campaign. “I want Outlaw outlawed,” Scott said.

Mark and Scott oppose the union because they contend it could financially hurt the hospital, which is already facing a $1 million deficit. Belleville (Ill.) News-Democrat 9/28/00]