Listen: General Mills, Gruchow

MPR’s Paul Gruchow presents interview about the unfair treatment and racism against Black women working in General Mills and other corporations.


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SPEAKER 1: Well, I guess as I'm talking to you, I'm trying to also weigh the consequences of everything I say. But at the same time, I feel that it's important that somebody somewhere make things very clear, make it clear that the promises that we hear and the images that we see of progress and corporations, generally, not just in our mills, are, by and large, empty.

I don't know what the consequences can be or are of a public disclosure on my part. They might be firing, or they might be the company realizing that it's been remiss, and deciding to do something about it, and upgrading. I don't know. The motivation is an utter inability to continue living in contradiction.

On the one hand, I'm aware of and participate in, at times, the policy statements that make things appear to be going very smoothly, running very well, to present an image to the community that General Mills is actually a committed industry or business that's doing all it can to ensure equal opportunity for everybody.

I would have to say I guess I do that out of my hope that the more you say about what you're going to do, the more you actually find yourself doing it. On the other hand, as I said earlier, I see not progress, but retrogression and more game playing by General Mills and by companies like that.

So the question for me is, what will inspire and motivate companies, corporations, business, or institutions to change in a more humane fashion and to live up to their projected ideals? What kinds of things will bring the projected ideals and reality close together? For sure, right now, there's a wide gap in what is said and what is, what exists.

SPEAKER 2: Do you think corporations are generally behind the community at large in their commitments to equality? Or are corporations laggard in that sense? If things change generally, but not inside business companies like General Mills.

SPEAKER 1: I don't know if they're behind or not. I think that they're-- big businesses are masters at deception. Or to state it otherwise, masters of public relations, and community relations, and community affairs, and have been able to thwart questions and pressures from individuals, and companies, and people outside companies that relate to this area, effectively, up to now, I think.

And I think that right now, there are enough people around the country who have been involved in business long enough and who find themselves not alone for the first time, but with sufficient number, in terms of other Black people, all the women who are committed to the same thing, who are willing to stand up finally and say that here and now is the time for a solid lay of cards on the table.

SPEAKER 2: One of the most interesting things, I've seen a draft document and a final document that relate to the possibility that the Chicago plant might be picketed in '64 and what the company's response ought to be. And in the draft, there's the suggestion that they ought to be provided with coffee. And they ought to be invited in to tour the facilities. They ought to be given job applications. And the final draft.

SPEAKER 1: Applications, but not jobs.

SPEAKER 2: Yes. Applications, well. But the interesting thing is that in the final draft of that, they added, should call demonstrators mister. And they deleted should give them job applications. That got dropped. Do you think the kind of attitude that suggests has been gotten over? Or are we still at the '64 level of consciousness there?

SPEAKER 1: I don't know whether it's gotten over or not. But the same people who were involved in the drafting of that memo are the people who are now persons who verbalize the corporate commitment, the new commitment to social responsibility.

SPEAKER 2: It's the same people are still around. The other interesting, there's another interesting memo that dates from '64, which says, this document about how to respond to potential picketing by Blacks. And it may seem to you very brief, but that's because we thought it might be best to keep some of the things we're thinking in our heads.

SPEAKER 1: That's pretty interesting. Because I wonder what they were thinking. That whole thing is kind of funny. I look at it as an indication of where people are coming from, what the basis is for their present actions. And if their first concern or official concern about Black people is documented in '64 as concern about so-called lawful and unlawful picketing, and the response to that issue was that they should invite the Black people in for coffee, give them a tour. And on this occasion, be sure to call them mister, if that's the basis we're dealing from, I have some reservations about the kind of solutions or progress we can achieve even now.

And what I'm saying, I guess, is that the record does indicate that the same deceptiveness employed in the treatment of potential picketing in '64 exists now, and continues to be perpetrated against Black people, and will be perpetrated against women as they begin to question their status in the company or in companies in general.


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