Local union says racist message about Juneteenth was autocorrect mistake

BOSTON — The Local 12 Plumbers and Gasfitters Union is apologizing for a text message about Juneteenth that was sent to 2,000 members.

A group of Massachusetts representatives obtained the text and sent it to Boston 25 News.

“The Federal Juneteenth Holiday, June 19th falls on a Sunday this year and is melon Monday, June 20th. It is an optional Holiday for Local 12 Members. Any Member who wishes to take Monday, June 20th, may take the day off,” it said.

Local 12′s business manager Tim Fandel has since issued a public apology.

“I have become aware of the recent statements sent through a Local text platform that in no way reflect the values of this organization. The text was offensive, hurtful and wrong, regardless of alleged technical or autocorrect issues within the third party platform,” said the statement.

Massachusetts State Representative Bud Williams told Boston 25 News that he is skeptical of the union’s explanation.

“Melon means watermelon. It’s very offensive, very derogatory, and it reverts back to the same playbook that these white supremacists have used in our country,” said Williams.

Williams, who’s the chair of the Joint Committee on Racial Equity, Civil Rights and Inclusion, said he felt compelled to call out Local 12 for the hurt he says the message has caused.

“When you use the word melon and tell me it was on autocorrect and it was a mistake, I can’t buy that,” said Williams. “It’s hard to believe. This is calculated language.”

Local 12′s business manager said the union will have an internal assessment and “is firmly dedicated to working with Diversity, Equity & Inclusion experts to assure healing, accountability, and solidarity.”

“I apologize on behalf of the entire organization. We will do better. These words, no matter of any context on how inadvertent they were within the messaging platform, are completely unacceptable and are squarely at odds with our values of fighting for the rights of all workers, and of combating racism in the workplace and beyond,” concluded the statement.

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