order non hybrid seeds LandRightsNFarming: Re: Follow Up:The Coalition Meeting with Secretary Tom Vilsack, 4 October 2011

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Re: Follow Up:The Coalition Meeting with Secretary Tom Vilsack, 4 October 2011

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On Wed, Oct 26, 2011 at 7:37 AM, misty seamom <landrightsnfarming.seamom89@gmail.com> wrote:

On Tue, Oct 25, 2011 at 10:35 PM, <LawrLCL@aol.com> wrote:
   October 25, 2011
Secretary Tom Vilsack
Subject: Follow-up to USDA Coalition of Minority Employee's Meeting with Secretary Tom Vilsack
Mr. Secretary:
            Thank you for meeting with the USDA Coalition of Minority Employees (The Coalition) the early morning of October 4, 2011, just hours before our scheduled "Filibuster for Justice" in front of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).   While Coalition members are pleased that the meeting took place, we remain disconcerted that our many requests, spanning more than two a-half years, had been ignored.  Clearly, we made our first written request to you on July 2, 2010.   On November 10, 2010, The Coalition made a second written request to meet with you.  Each of our requests plainly detailed our "Twenty-Five Issues and Solutions Regarding USDA Civil Rights Program."
       When we met on October 4th, you allowed our delegation to address minority farmers and USDA employee "Issues and Solutions".  On that day you heard first hand, the unsanitized truth about the vile activity that is going on in some USDA offices and agencies around the country, especially, the U.S. Forest Service. You heard from USDA employees as well as USDA customers, minority farmers reflecting their reality and their conditions.  Their message to you, perhaps, differed from the peppered accounts told to you by subordinate officials in USDA leadership.     
  Yes, Mr. Secretary, The Coalition members believe you have been misled as to the degree of pain, suffering and abuse, being inflicted on USDA employees and minority farmers.  Our members also believe you are being misled about USDA's effort, or lack of effort, to hold USDA officials accountable for the hostile work environment they continue to create.   For example, a manager in the Forest Service said to be fired and held accountable for assault, sexual harassment, and hostile work environment inflicted on one of the women participating in our meeting, was absolutely false. You were led to believe otherwise.
     In contrast to what subordinates may have told you, the timeliness of resolving minority farmers and USDA employees' cases; and the serious lack of accountability continues to plague the failed civil rights process at USDA. Carefully primed numbers reflecting civil rights data do not, and cannot trump the overwhelming reality expressed to you personally during our October 4th discussion of our "Issues and Solutions Regarding USDA Civil Rights Program."  Many are suffering still at the hands of USDA officials in pockets, too numerous to mention, around the country. Yes, "one bad apple can destroy a barrel". Dutifully prepared statistics will not cure the civil rights ills at USDA.  Mr. Secretary, you will need to take strong leadership to make a positive CHANGE happen within the culture of USDA.  If the Clinton/Glickman administration can do it, so can the Obama/ Vilsack Administration. There must be a willingness and on-going commitment at the very top to make the much needed long term systemic changes in USDA civil rights a reality, and not just a pipe dream.
            However, it is with optimism that our "Decision Document", dated 3 October 2011 and our "Twenty-Five Issues and Solutions Regarding USDA Civil Rights Program of July 2010 and November 10, 2010, will be speedily addressed and acted upon in the affirmative.
Much of what we have offered to solve USDA's civil rights ills are in the USDA Civil Rights Action Team (CRAT), February 1997, and Civil Right Implementation Team (CRIT), March 1998, and the recent $8 million dollar Jackson Lewis Report.  To the detriment of USDA employees and its customers, USDA has been ineffective in making change happen to promote a workforce culture that does not tolerate widespread discrimination, reprisal, racism, sexism, sexual harassment, bullying, and other abuses.
            Taking into consideration The Coalition's offer to work in "cooperation and partnership" with your administration, a suggestion you seemed to embrace, hopefully, we can now move forward together.  However, it should be noted that on October 6, 2011 my telephone conversation with your Chief of Staff, Ms. Krystal Harden, requesting to assist in developing workable solutions has produced no response.  Working together should reduce the adversarial environment at USDA towards The Coalition.
            It would be disingenuous to say that only the U.S. Forest Service has an abysmal civil rights record and hence, requires your attention.   By far, that is not the case.  Other USDA agency's including NRCS, APHIS, ARS (NIFA), RD, FS, the Office of Civil Rights and Departmental Management, and others are in dire need of your close civil rights oversight.  These agencies also require your response in holding managers accountable for a positive workplace culture.
Mr. Secretary, we would like to meet with you again between now and the first week in November 2011.  We would like to hear your plan to speedily resolve USDA's long legacy of civil and human rights abuses, including how USDA may implement our recommendations for lasting systemic changes in USDA civil rights.
    We want to know that cases filed at USDA will get the same treatment, speed and conclusion, as Ms. Shirley Sherrod.
                Thank you very much for your immediate response.
 Lawrence Lucas, President
USDA Coalition of Minority Employees
856/ 910-2399
Attachments: Decision Document, Letter 25 Issues & Concerns, Senator Chuck Grassley letter, dated October 3, 2011
 cc: The Coalition For Change, Inc. (C4C)

October 3, 2011
Black Farmer Priority Issues
1.  Settle the Administrative Complaints and court cases expeditiously.
2.  Statute of Limitations.
3.  Hold the USDA CR office accountable for the 180 day EEO process
     (Includes investigations and processing of cases).
4. Design a program that is specific to minority farmers.
5.  Local State and County offices to be placed into Receivership.
6.  Implement Project Prime Road, a sustainability solar project for minority farmers. If it can work for minority farmers in North Carolina it can work for minority farmers throughout the country.
 USDA Employee Priority Issues
1.  Accelerated program to settle Title 7 complaints. All reprisal cases should be fast-tracked using the Glickman CRIT/CRAT model. Announce and initiate immediately.
  2.  Settlement of Class Actions. Examples: Settle the Benton-Wilson Class Agents and associated cases that were dismissed; settle the Vercruysse Class; and settle any outstanding classes in USDA.
 3.  Enforce USDA's regulations on accountability. Hold guilty parties accountable.
 4.  Offer ADR to all employees with cases upon their request. Mediations will occur within 60 days.
 5.  Conflict of interest cases to be processed outside USDA, i.e. use an outside contractor. Presently USDA has plans to process their own conflict of interest cases. Cease practice of USDA top officials purposely not processing conflict of interest cases to avoid accountability.
 6.  Coalition to conduct civil rights training seminars in partnership with USDA, similar to the June 18-19, 1998 Race and Diversity in the Workplace seminar.  One seminar will be held in California and one in Washington, DC. 
 Joint Priority Issues
 1.  Full implementation of CRIT/CRAT. Coalition paid to provide monitoring and oversight with authority from Office of the Secretary.
 2.  Receivership.
 3.  Ombudsman.
 4.  Implement Jackson Lewis Report Recommendations.
 5.  All Agency Civil Rights Directors should be under Office of Civil Rights, including budgets. FY 2009 or FY 2010 Budget, whichever is highest.
 6.  Cease using high powered, K Street attorneys, OGC attorneys, and Staff attorneys to represent the Agency in pre-hearing/pre-court processes.
 7.  OGC to discontinue their control of Civil Rights EEO and administrative processes for employees and farmers.
 8.  Form a committee for implementation and oversight. Hire a minimum of two Coalition representatives.
 9.  Implement all 25 Coalition Issues submitted to USDA on November
November 10, 2010
TO: Secretary Tom Vilsack and Staff
SUBJECT: Issues and Solutions Regarding USDA Civil Rights
The USDA Coalition of Minority Employees has on numerous occasions requested to meet with Secretary Vilsack concerning violations of USDA employees' and minority farmers civil rights by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Only once during his first few months on the job did he agree to meet with the Coalition. His staff on occasion has met with the Coalition:
Kathleen Merrigan, Deputy Secretary; Karen Ross, Chief of Staff; Joe Leonard, Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights; Harris Sherman, Under Secretary for Natural Resources; Edward Avalos; Under Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs; Steve Silverman, Deputy General Counsel; Tom Tidwell, Chief, Forest Service.
Yet, significant and systemic civil rights violations continue at USDA; the issues require the Secretary's immediate attention. The Secretary is responsible for the Department's civil rights violations and abuses.
The Coalition has identified significant problems and proposes solutions for the following issues:
1. Failure to process civil rights complaints. Institute immediately a Departmental program to resolve/reduce the backlog of complaints for both employees and minority farmers, especially, Black farmers.
2. Implement programs that have already been successful. Use the Glickman/Clinton administration model to resolve complaints and implement the remaining recommendations from the Civil Rights Action Team (CRAT) and the Civil Rights Implementation Team (CRIT) Reports.
3. Make the CRAT & CRIT Reports an immediate priority for implementation throughout USDA & all of its agencies. Place each of these reports back on the USDA website. Require each agency to develop an internal resolution program (utilizing a USDA prescribed process) for mediating all cases in the administrative process. This process should be offered to all employees having outstanding cases.
4. Immediately begin final negotiations to settle remaining class actions. Specifically, the Herron African American, Wilson/Benton class and resolve all remaining cases in Spencer.
5. Reinstate and process minority farmers, especially Black farmers, administrative complaints that were allowed to lapse during the ten years of the Bush and Obama Administrations.
6. Investigate farmers' complaints. When a final decision is reached concerning allegations, send the farmers a letter to inform them of the decision made concerning the complaint.
7. Fully implement recommendations in GAO Report of 2008 that contain remedies and viable options to address management deficiencies in the USDA Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights.
8. Implement all issues and concerns in Senator Chuck Grassley's June 15, 2010, letter to Senator Blanche Lincoln, Chairperson Senate Agriculture Committee.
9. Enforce USDA's regulations on accountability. Hold management officials and employees accountable for discrimination. Include a civil rights critical element in performance evaluations for officials, managers and supervisors.
10. Require the USDA Office of Civil Rights to work in cooperation and partnership with the Coalition of Minority Employees to improve civil rights, workforce diversity, and recruitment agency-wide. Joe Leonard, Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, has undermined progress and cooperation between the Office of Civil Rights and the Coalition. Only in a recent meeting with the Secretary's top staff, has he shown a desire to meet with the Coalition.
11. Report and process all reprisal complaints expeditiously via the USDA Office of Civil Rights so that employees do not languish and suffer in an abusive environment. The process is already in place; USDA should follow existing policies. Claims and documentation of reprisal should be maintained, documented and reported by the USDA Office of Civil Rights.
12. The USDA Office of Civil Rights has failed in its management responsibilities to conduct proper civil rights oversight and compliance reviews of all its agencies. This is a requirement that must be corrected.
13. No USDA employee should be forced to resign or retire as a condition for settling a complaint. The Secretary should take immediate action to prevent this double discrimination from continuing. This is a direct violation of Title VII.
14. Settle the long standing Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) case of a Black female employee that was called the "N" word, "MF", "You People" and other abuses. Top Obama officials at USDA refused to settle this egregious case. Also, settle another NRCS employee case who was wrongly discriminated against, now deceased.
15. The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service in Ames, Iowa laboratories has a long
history of racial epithets and hostile work environment that includes: reprisal, intimidation and bullying. There is no evidence that has been shared with the Coalition that top and lower management officials at those laboratories are being held accountable, for past and present abuses.
16. The USDA tracking system and reporting process is an abysmal failure. Senator Grassley has said "A statutory mandate to publish reports on the participation of minority farmers and ranchers in USDA programs but those reports are riddled with unreliable data." The Coalition can only assume that the same applies to employment and record keeping as well since there are no published reports. This is not the civil rights transparency promised by the Secretary.
17. Implement the GAO and 2008 Farm Bill Recommendation to hire an "Ombudsman".
18. Apologize to the five Black women, in the USDA Office of Civil Rights who were falsely accused of wrong doing and subject to a humiliating investigation. This is a clear case of abuse of power. Even though their stories did not make national news, these women deserve to be accorded the same level of justice afforded Shirley Sherrod.
19. USDA Office of Civil Rights must publish accurate civil rights reports and data which are treated as confidential or classified. We need more accountability and transparency.
20. The USDA Forest Service remains the most abusive and discriminatory agency in all of USDA. The claims predominantly from women include: hostile work environment, reprisal, intimidation, sexual harassment, bullying and other abuses. Few officials are being held accountable. Priority should be placed on resolving cases in Forest Service Region 5.
21. The USDA Forest Service during recent years paid out 4.2 million taxpayer dollars to one contract attorney to battle employees in ADR/mediation process. This money is better spent improving the working conditions of employees instead of saving the jobs of some civil rights abusers.
22. Process for employee complaints (including ADR and Mediation) should be handled expeditiously. There are too many instances where resolving officials have not shown up; came without the authority to settle; declined to sign the negotiated agreement; came in bad faith; or refused the employee the right to a representative of their choosing. These intentional violations of civil rights regulations undermine the integrity and the intent of the process and further violate the employees' rights.
23. Reinstate the USDA diversity recruitment programs at Iowa State University (Ames) and California Polytechnic University (Pomona).
24. Hire employees in the Office of Civil Rights who know Title VI and VII. Top management for USDA civil rights are not knowledgeable of the laws and the cases that interpret these and other civil rights statutes.
25. The Coalition has seen the Obama administration continue the abuses in the Office of Civil Rights. Unless there is an honest attempt to address these civil rights abuses, the Coalition recommends that the Office of Civil Rights be placed in "Receivership".
It is imperative that we meet with you to assist in identifying and eliminating the underlying causes of discrimination throughout USDA. Working together we can assist in putting together a plan for preventing future individual and class complaints.
Thank you.
Lawrence Lucas, President
USDA Coalition of Minority Employees
Phone: 856/ 910-2399
Cc: Coalition Representatives Nation-wide