Petition over removal of Obama portrait at base
DENVER ” Civilian workers at an Air Force Base in Colorado have filed a union grievance over the removal of a portrait of President Barack Obama from the base commissary.
Obama’s photograph was on a sign at the Peterson Air Force Base commissary in Colorado Springs listing the store’s Presidents’ Day hours for Feb. 16, commissary employee Lavonda Bacon said. She said it was replaced Feb. 10 with a sign with no picture.
Bacon said the store’s director, Andrew J. Brookes, told employees that a customer had complained that Presidents’ Day was meant to honor George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, not current presidents. Bacon, who orders store merchandise from suppliers, said she believes the day honors all presidents and that she and other workers suspect racism was behind the complaint.
“What’s not to like about the picture other than that he’s a black man?” Bacon said Monday.
Bacon, a member of the American Federation of Government Employees, said she and 12 other union members filed a grievance with Brookes demanding that Obama’s picture be posted at the commissary.
Sterling Hiibschman (HIP-shmun), president of the union’s local, said he expected to hear this week where the grievance stands.
Twenty-three workers and customers signed a separate petition demanding that Obama’s picture be posted at the commissary and other public places at Peterson.
It also asks for an investigation into whether there is “a systemic pattern of hostility toward people of color” at the base. The petition alleges that military contractors or their employees have used a derogatory term to describe black commissary workers, that a white commissary worker dressed in blackface on Halloween, and that at least one employee’s formal civil rights complaint has never been addressed.
Bacon said she filed that complaint, alleging a supervisor had threatened to fire her over the way Bacon spoke to him.
Bacon said the petition was submitted to base commanders.
Peterson spokesman Steve Brady said Brookes was out of the office Monday and could not be reached. Brady referred questions to the Defense Commissary Agency, which oversees all military commissaries. An agency spokeswoman said officials were formulating a response.
Peterson, in Colorado Springs, is home to the North American Aerospace Defense Command, the U.S. Northern Command and units of the Air Force Space Command. Its commissary sells food and household items to service members.
Bacon said she has a meeting scheduled Tuesday with the base Equal Employment Opportunity office to discuss her complaints.
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