John Erwin

Recent Articles

Park Board leaders, NAACP claim progress

Some employees find workplace still hostile 

By Charles Hallman

Staff Writer

 

Since MSR’s January 5 exclusive article on racial discrimination against current and former Black Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board (MPRB) employees, MPRB Superintendent Jayne Miller, Board President John Erwin, and Minneapolis NAACP President Booker T Hodges have met several times and developed a process to address the issue of “inconsistency” in discipline matters. Whether this process and other measures will satisfy disgruntled employees remains to be seen. The MSR article, “Black employees call Mpls Park Board a ‘toxic’ workplace,” reported that after receiving numerous calls from current and former Park Board employees, Hodges initiated an investigation. The NAACP determined that Park Board supervisors used performance reviews “to systematically target minority employees to terminate them from their jobs” as well as moving longtime Black employees “to less desirable positions.”

Following that investigation and MSR’s story, nearly 80 past and current employees received letters inviting them to set up a time to meet with Miller on their concerns. A MPRB spokesperson explained that these meetings were not “grievance hearings,” but simply “meetings.” Even though the individual could bring anyone they chose to the session, no one else was allowed to speak on their behalf as might be the case in a grievance hearing. Continue Reading →

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Mpls Park Board says ‘climate’ change is underway

 

 

By Charles Hallman

Staff Writer

 

Since the MSR’s January 4  article “Black employees call Minneapolis Park Board a ‘toxic workplace,’” Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board (MPRB) officials say they have already undertaken significant changes to the organization’s “internal climate” and there is more to come as “we…acknowledge and address our shortcomings.” Some workers fear the changes will be superficial and fail to go far enough. MPRB board and staff recently received an environmental and organizational analysis interim report by a local consulting team. The report, originally scheduled to be completed and released in April, confirms the findings of a six-month Minneapolis NAACP probe into employment conditions at the Park Board among Black employees. “Unfortunately, many of the deficiencies and issues noted are not new but have been present for years,” admits MPRB Superintendent Jayne Miller in a January 25 cover letter to the report. The 11-page report identifies current issues that “require immediate attention by everyone in the entire organization… It is not an overreaction to describe the MPRB as demoralized internally — where employees across racial and ethnic lines feel stymied in their ability to effectively meet job responsibilities.”

The reports recommendations include developing strategies to address culture issues, building a strong human relations department, reinstating a diversity council and strengthening and supporting the community outreach department. Continue Reading →

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Park Board, NAACP meet to address worker grievances

 
Meanwhile, complaints continue to surface

By Charles Hallman

Staff Writer

 

Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board (MPRB) officials and the Minneapolis NAACP now are meeting to address concerns raisedby Black employees and customers. “I think they are receptive, and I look forward to working with them,” said NAACP President Booker Hodges after his recent meetings with MPRB Superintendent Jayne Miller and Board Chairman John Erwin. The NAACP, who previously investigated “over 60 complaints…and over 100 customers’ complaints,” have recently received an additional 15 complaints from Park Board workers since the MSR January 5 story on employment conditions among MPRB Black employees, said Hodges. “We have been contacted by White employees, too,” he reported. “They say they have the same issues but Blacks have it worse.”

The MSR also received several phone calls and emails from present and former Park Board employees. Continue Reading →

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Black employees call Mpls Park Board a “Toxic Workplace”

 

 

NAACP acts on numerous complaints from workers and customers
 

By Charles Hallman

Staff Writer

 

A six-month Minneapolis NAACP investigation into employment conditions among African Americans at the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board (MPRB) has found “systemic areas which the Minneapolis Park Board must address to remedy the concerns of our organization and those who come to us seeking assistance,” according to a December 23 letter from Branch President Booker T Hodges to John Erwin, park board chairman. The letter was prompted by “over 60 complaints from Minneapolis Park Board employees and over 100 customers’ complaints in addition to those employee complaints.”

In a series of meetings with the MSR in recent weeks, African American employees have described the current Park Board workplace as one where a “toxic” atmosphere of fear and retaliation is pervasive, where Blacks feel “disrespected” and “humiliated,” and where those who speak out against perceived inequities are targeted and punished for being “militant.” These Black employees feel that due to the lack of diversity in upper management, including the human relations department (see sidebar), there is “no one who looks like us” and no one willing to address their concerns. Black employees also report several firings and reprimands based on “trumped-up charges” and on a double standard in applying policies to Whites and Blacks. These employees say they do not trust their union representatives to address their concerns or to support them in resolving disputes with their employer. As a result they feel isolated and “bullied” by their superiors. Continue Reading →

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