STEUBENVILLE - The president of the Ohio Valley Black Caucus leveled racial discrimination complaints against the Sunset Boulevard Rite Aid Pharmacy and called for African-Americans to stop using the store's pharmacy.
Delores Wiggins, flanked by officers from the civil rights organization, announced at a Wednesday press conference the store has only one African-American employee, "and she has faced a hostile environment."
"I am asking all African-Americans to avoid obtaining their prescriptions at that Rite Aid store. If they already have prescriptions at that pharmacy, I am asking them to change to another pharmacy," said Wiggins.
DISCUSSING A COMPLAINT — Officers from the Ohio Valley Black Caucus discussed a racial complaint filed with the organization by an employee of the Rite Aid Pharmacy on Sunset Boulevard in Steubenville. Taking part in the Wednesday morning press conference were, from left, three Ohio Valley Black Caucus officials including Evelyn Woods, secretary/ treasurer; Delores Wiggins, president; and Jane Hyman, trustee. — Dave Gossett
A spokesperson for the Rite Aid Corp. said Wednesday all allegations of discrimination are taken very seriously.
"Our human resources department has investigated this matter previously and does not believe these allegations to be true," said Cheryl Slavinski, director of corporate public relations.
"Rite Aid is an equal-opportunity employee, and we are committed to cultivating a diverse work environment and we do not tolerate racial discrimination," stated Slavinski.
"We are not saying anything against the Rite Aid Corp. In fact there are a number of African-American employees at the Fifth Street Rite Aid Pharmacy in the downtown. We are only talking about the West End Rite Aid store," stated Wiggins.
"There have been African-Americans who have applied for jobs at the Sunset Boulevard store but they are never hired. I believe it has something to do with the economy and the location in the West End of the city," Wiggins said.
"We want the harassment to stop and equal opportunities for African- Americans to work at the store. I have been in contact with the Rev. Al Sharpton's office and the Rev. Jesse Jackson's office about the issues here. We may possibly organize a march or a demonstration if the problems continue," she said.
"We always look for talented and qualified applicants. We go out of our way to recruit at colleges offering job recruitment fairs. It all comes down to qualified candidates. Are people applying for the jobs and are they qualified," said Slavinski.
"The Ohio Valley Black Caucus will not tolerate blatant racism. Racism has become more sophisticated and more subtle. We will do what we have to do to remind the Rite Aid store on Sunset Boulevard this is not 1619 and the master is gone forever not to return. We demand equal justice under the law," said Wiggins.
Wiggins said the Steubenville Branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People has been made aware of the issue.
"Carol Simmons is here today from the NAACP. We just want what's right," Wiggins said.
She noted the Ohio Valley Black Caucus and local NAACP branch will hold the third in a series of town meetings on Oct. 25 at the Emmanuel Church of God in Christ on South Fifth Street.
"We will discuss this issue as well as other issues and will continue holding our town meetings until we see a better day with true justice for everyone," Wiggins said.
(Gossett can be contacted at email@example.com.)