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Michigan craft brewery sued for race discrimination sees its diversity director resign

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A craft brewer in Michigan that has been sued by a former employee for racial discrimination has lost its diversity director.

Founders Brewing Company’s diversity and inclusion director, Graci Harkema, who is black, said in a Facebook post on Friday that she was leaving the position after only nine months on the job.

“I greatly appreciate friends and family for being supportive and standing by my side. I have dedicated myself to a life and career of equity, ethics, integrity and morals. I have resigned from Founders Brewing Co.,” she wrote, including a phrase Nike featured on an ad with former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick.

“Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything,” the slogan read.

Harkema’s Facebook post included a letter that she said she wrote to the Founders leadership team in which she disagreed with how the company handled the lawsuit by a former packaging-machine operator, Tracy Evans.

Evans, who is black, sued in August 2018, alleging that on two separate occasions a co-worker either called him the N-word or used the racial slur around him. The suit claims that when Evans reported these incidents to human resources “his complaints fell on deaf ears.”

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He also alleged that he was denied a promotion because of his race and ultimately fired in June 2018 when he told a manager about his plans to report his concerns to human resources.

Founders in statements has denied race played any role in Evans’ termination but has not addressed other allegations in the suit, including about racial slurs.

The brewery faced backlash when in a leaked deposition Founders’ general manager Dominic Ryan said he could not definitively say whether Evans is black.

“I don’t know Tracy’s lineage, so I can’t speculate on whether he’s — if he’s from Africa or not,” Ryan, who is white, said in the deposition when asked about Evans’ race.

When the interviewer continued to question Ryan and asked if he knew whether Michael Jordan and former president Barack Obama are black, he responded that he had never met them.

In a statement Friday, Founders announced that its Detroit taproom would be temporarily closed as the company addresses “challenges.

In her latter, Harkema said her ideas on how to address the lawsuit were brushed aside and Founders instead was focused on trying to win the suit.

“You are most concerned with the ego of ‘winning’ than you are about the loss of customers, loss of reputation, and loss of employees’ wellbeing,” she wrote in a letter dated Oct. 25. “We as a company, didn’t have to be at the place we are at now.”

Harkema, who was hired in January after the lawsuit was filed, said Founders had a chance to be the “hero” in how the situation was addressed but instead she said the company has lost the trust of the community and many of their employees.

“The prioritization of diversity and inclusion begins at the top. We are not experiencing a staff issue, we are experiencing a leadership issue,” she wrote.

Founders’ co-founders, Mike Stevens and Dave Engbers, told NBC News in a statement that they are sad Harkema is leaving.

“Graci Harkema had been a valuable member of our Founders family during her time with Founders. We were sorry to receive her resignation on Friday. We sincerely appreciate all of her efforts to help move our company forward. We will continue our diversity and inclusion program and plan to have leadership in place in that important area as soon as possible.”

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Travel agents say business travel most affected by Coronavirus

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GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) — Travelers going through Green Bay Austin Straubel International Airport are not too concerned about COVID-19.

“I do go to China, I have gone to China and I’ve been Wuhan. It doesn’t concern me a whole lot,” said Mike Callahan of Green Bay.

Others are more conscious about the flu and are taking precautions.

“Just by practicing good hygiene and making sure I’m coughing in the corner of my elbow or sneezing and washing my hands really good. I really have no concerns,” said Shawn Massey, who is heading to Houston, Texas.

Travel agents at Fox World Travel say business travelers have been most impacted by the outbreak.

“Asia is of course huge for commerce and trade and that kind of a thing, and Fox World Travel really does to do a great deal of business travel. So, that’s where we’re seeing the most cancellations right now,” said Rose Gray, Business Relations Director for Fox World Travel.

Gray says she’s finding many travelers are hesitant about booking a trip or going one they already have planned.

She says the agency has been getting more questions from people asking about what’s covered under travel insurance if they do want to cancel a trip.

“A covered reason is going to be death in the immediate family, sickness of you or one of your travel companions, those types of things. Fear of traveling to a destination is not a covered reason in most cases,” said Gray.

One tool international travelers can use to put their minds at ease is STEP, the smart traveler enrollment program.

“If the U.S. government were to send an empty plane, which they are in some cases, to go and get quarantined passengers off of a ship, the government would know where you are,” said Gray.

Gray says they have also been able to work with travel companies to make sure the money you put down on a trip won’t go to waste.

“Maybe you’re dealing with a tour company that does more than just Asia, and they’re saying alright, we can’t give you the money back, but can we put it on a Europe trip or can we put it on another destination,” said Gray. So we’re trying to work with the vendors and they’re being quite gracious.”

According to the World Health Organization, no new countries have reported cases of Coronavirus in the last 24 hours.

Travel experts say to check the following sites to keep up to date on the latest travel impacts due to the illness:

Travel.State.Gov.
Center for Disease Control and Prevention

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Mai Tai Bar thanks customers for 20 years of business

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HONOLULU (KHON2) – One of Hawaii’s favorite night life spots is closing this Sunday.

Olive Garden has filed for a permit to do work in the space where the Mai Tai Bar and Bubba Gumps is located at Ala Moana Center. Employees were told that the lease for the restaurants will not be renewed.

The Mai Tai Bar has been a local favorite for the past 20 years. The staff wants to thank its loyal customers for all the support.

“It’s a great feeling when you hear people say I come here every week, every day on my vacation, I’ve met my husband here and so we just want to thank everyone for their support year after year the bands the promoters the sponsors that have made us who we are today,” said Teresa Morales, Manager at the Mai Tai Bar.

Details are still developing on exactly what will occupy the space where the Mai Tai Bar is currently located.

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Kickstarter becomes first tech company to unionize

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  • Kickstarter employees have unionized, making them the first full-time employees at a tech company to do so as more across the industry look to organize.
  • Workers voted 46-37 in favor of unionizing after a heated back and forth with management that included the firing of two workers leading the organizing efforts.
  • “We support and respect this decision, and we are proud of the fair and democratic process that got us here,” Kickstarter CEO Aziz Hasan said in an emailed statement.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Kickstarter employees have officially unionized after a vote was tallied Tuesday, marking the first full-time workers at a tech company to do so as more across the industry look to organize.

The historic 46-37 vote in favor of unionizing comes after a contentious process, which involved the firing of two Kickstarter employees who were leading the efforts. The employees then filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board, which has yet to resolve, according to Vice.

“We are so truly grateful to everyone who has supported us along the way,” the union said in a tweet, mentioning the Office and Professional Employees International Union and its local chapter through which the group unionized. “And to all tech and creative workers looking to fight for your rights, this is only just the beginning!” 

“We support and respect this decision, and we are proud of the fair and democratic process that got us here. We’ve worked hard over the last decade to build a different kind of company, one that measures its success by how well it achieves its mission: helping to bring creative projects to life,” Kickstarter CEO Aziz Hasan said in an emailed statement.

Kickstarter employees announced their union drive publicly last March, under the name Kickstarter United, on the same day that co-founder Perry Chen resigned as CEO. Chen had a history of turmoil at the company. He left the company in 2013, but reassumed the CEO title in 2017. A year after his return, 50 of Kickstarter’s 120 employees had left and employees told BuzzFeed News that Chen’s management style was the reason for it.

Kickstarter had been dealing with tensions that employees said arose from Chen’s heavy-handed management style as well as internal disagreement over a decision to remove a project from the site after right-wing news site Breitbart claimed the project violated the Kickstarter terms of service, according to Slate.

Last September, Kickstarter fired Clarissa Redwine and Taylor Moore, two longtime employees who had been leading the union drive. CEO Aziz Hasan wrote in a blog post that neither were fired for their organizing efforts, but also said that “the union framework is inherently adversarial.” Redwine’s termination ultimately led her to file a complaint with the NLRB. Employees have also accused the company of taking various steps to thwart their efforts to unionize.

“So many people worked incredibly hard to earn Kickstarter’s employees a seat at the table, and now they have one. Kickstarter is now a place for collective action through and through,” Redwine said on Twitter after the vote was announced Tuesday, adding that “the vote was close. Management did a great job busting.”

While Kickstarter United is the first union of full-time white collar employees at a major tech company, workers across the industry have been ramping up organizing efforts over the past several years.

Over 2,000 cafeteria workers at Google’s Bay Area offices voted to join a union last December and Google contract workers in Pittsburgh voted to unionize last August, while Chicago employees of the food delivery service Instacart also unionized earlier this month, according to Motherboard. Several digital media outlets, including BuzzFeed News, Gizmodo Media Group, and podcast producer Gimlet, have also recognized employee unions in the past year.

Short of unionizing, workers at major tech companies have organized around issues such as controversial company policies, pay and benefit disparities, sexual harassment, and various types of discrimination. Thousands of Google workers staged a walkout in 2018 over the company’s record on sexual misconduct, while others protested last year after Google fired several employees involved in organizing efforts as tensions within the company continue to simmer.

Employees at Amazon spoke out about the company’s impact on the environment and its warehouse employees striked last year during its busy “Prime Day” over working conditions. In recent months, Microsoft employees went as far as to resign over the company’s work with Immigration Customs and Enforcement.

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