Allegations of racism at a St. Petersburg based bus company were outlined today in a hearing of the ST. Petersburg Human Relations Commission. The hearing follows a finding by the Human Relations Commission that there was racism at First Class, Martz, Coachlines. WMNF’s Amy Snider has the story.

On February 26, 2001, bus driver Larry Holmes found a note on his windshield that read, “Find your place around here like the other niggers.�

Around here is bus company First Class Coachlines in St. Petersburg. Holmes had complained to management at First Class that white bus drivers were given preferential treatment – driving newer buses, earning higher tips, and getting long distance charter bus assignments, while black drivers were relegated to the so called “black track,� otherwise known as Amtrak runs made from Tampa and Orlando. Holmes resigned, fearing for his safety.

Larry Alpert is the Attorney representing Larry Holmes.

Alpert actuality re:this day and age

First Class, according to Alpert, has important clients, including the military. He says that assignment of bus drivers should be unbiased.

Alpert re: equity

Alpert questioned First Class general manager and corporate representative Stanley Johnson for several hours. Alpert was armed with a list of First Class drivers, their assignments, and their race. The top earners, and those deemed to have the best assignments, were white. The driver with the third highest ranking was Henry Bill Martin. Here, Alpert questions First Class Manager Stanley Johnson, about Martin. Also speaking is hearing officer Robert Eschenfelder and Janet McHenry, for the defense.

KKK actuality

When Alpert asked Johnson had he or any one at First Class tried to determine whether Larry Holmes’ assertions about blacks earning lower tips and getting less desirable assignments than white drivers, Johnson stated that there is no way to determine if that is true, because tips are not reported, can’t be verified, and are based on the service of the driver.

Attorney Larry Alpert says that although it is unacceptable that racism be tolerated, bringing Larry Holmes’ case into the open demonstrates that the St. Petersburg Human Relations Commission works:

Alpert on good govt

The hearing is expected to continue through Friday. Expected to testify are the secretary to the general manager, a white woman who, Alpert says will corroborate incidents of racism at First Class.

First Class counsel Janet McHenry, who unsuccessfully moved to bar reporters from the proceeding, insists that First Class will prove Mr. Holmes’ claims of racism were without basis, and that his fear of returning to the job was unreasonable.

Janet McHenry

Hearing officer Robert Eschenfleder estimated it would take him about 30 days to render a decision whether there was racism at First Class, Martz, Coachlines. If he determines that to be the case, he may recommend that Larry Holmes be awarded damages for lost wages, and attorney fees. For WMNF news, this is Amy Snider.

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