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A legal victory may be sweet, but it’s not always enough. At least that’s the sentiment of some Detroit Ameritech workers who filed a class action lawsuit against the phone company three years ago for allegedly discriminating against them because of their race and/or health problems. The employees had their first victory last month when Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Edward M. Thomas certified the lawsuit as a class action — allowing the 150 or more plaintiffs to go forward with the case as a group rather than filing individual suits.

When the employees learned that Ameritech appealed Thomas’ decision last week to the Michigan Court of Appeals — which is not the friendliest court to workers — they decided to take their case to the streets.

“The first message we want to get out is Ameritech has all these problems in Detroit,” says Gary Culver, a Detroit-based service technician who helped organize Ameritech African American Employees for Equality (AAAEE). A plaintiff in the suit, the group holds public forums to air allegations that blacks and other Detroit workers are mistreated. AAAEE members are also meeting with civil rights leaders to let them know about the lawsuit — and how Detroit residents allegedly receive inferior phone service compared to suburban customers. Culver hopes public pressure will force Ameritech to settle the lawsuit and rehire fired workers.

“It is time for them to take responsibility for what they’ve done and bring this to resolution,” he says.

Ameritech spokesperson Blair Klein says that the company appealed the lawsuit because it does not discriminate against workers. “The merits of the case are very little and we believe that we will be successful,” Klein adds.

Spokespersons in the past have insisted that Ameritech does not slight Detroit customers.

News Hits was written by Ann Mullen and edited by Curt Guyette. Contact the column at 313-202-8004 or

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