WLW Lashes Out Again

You can lead a horse's ass to water, but you can't make him think. Or so it seems with WLW (700 AM) and its irrepressible need to belittle Latino immigrants. Having won a modicum of goodwill fr

Margo Pierce

Porkopolis TIP LINES: 513-665-4700 (ext. 138) or pork(at)citybeat.com

You can lead a horse's ass to water, but you can't make him think. Or so it seems with WLW (700 AM) and its irrepressible need to belittle Latino immigrants.

Having won a modicum of goodwill from the Latino community by taking down its offensive Big Juan billboards in May, now the station has provoked outrage with an on-air gag: a house ad on the theme "How to Talk to an Illegal Alien." The clip provides Spanish translations for such "helpful" phrases as, "Be careful with those hedge clippers around the garden gnome."

Latino activists are now demanding the dismissal of WLW General Manager Chuck Fredrick, who acceded to demands to remove the billboards in the spring and promised the station would stop insulting immigrants. The latest stunt has attracted the attention of national organizations. Brent A. Wilkes, national executive director of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), wrote a letter to WLW's parent company, Clear Channel.

"The local Hispanic community is outraged that the station is deliberately demeaning them in an effort to increase ratings and profit at the station," Wilkes wrote. "They are demanding that Mr. Fredrick be removed from his position and that the demeaning advertisements stop. They also want to have a community advisory board appointed in order to work with the station's management to prevent future misconduct by the station."

LULAC organized a picket in front of WLW Aug. 21.

The Latino community isn't fighting on-air bigotry alone. After hearing the ad, the Cincinnati Chapter of the Japanese Americans Citizens League (JACL) contacted LULAC, offering to help. In a letter to Fredrick, Elizabeth Sato, local president of JACL, warned of a possible boycott unless the station cleans up its act.

"I am writing to tell you that the day is past when ethnic slurs and jokes about foreign accents can be considered even remotely amusing," the letter said. "The recent 'Talk to an Illegal Immigrant' spots WLW ran were tasteless and offensive to more than just the Latin American community. ... Since it is clear that the diversity training recommended after the previous incident either wasn't taken seriously or folks at WLW are slow learners, maybe economic sanctions will reinforce the lesson."

Comeuppances Delivered
National workplace safety regulators are proposing an unprecedented $2.78 million fine against Cintas Corp. for violations that led to the death of a worker at a company laundry in Tulsa, Okla. (see "Dirty Laundry," issue of July 18). Cintas can appeal the fine recommended by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) but, if upheld, it will be the largest fine ever issued in the service sector for health and safety violations.

Safety inspectors reported 46 illegal hazards in the Tulsa laundry, including 42 "willful" violations. At least one citation was for not protecting workers from the type of equipment involved in Eleazar Torres-Gomez's death in March. Under OSHA rules, willful violations are committed with "intentional disregard" for the law or "plain indifference" to worker safety.

Torres-Gomez died after he became caught in a conveyor belt and was dragged into an industrial dryer, where he was trapped for 20 minutes in a compartment where temperatures reach 300 degrees Fahrenheit. He was 46 and had worked at Cintas for seven years when the accident occurred.

Cintas CEO Scott Farmer issued a press release blaming Torres-Gomez for his own death shortly after the incident, and the company is fighting his family's worker compensation claim. The Torres-Gomez family has since filed a negligence lawsuit against Cintas.

Also, OSHA has proposed an additional $117,500 fine against Cintas for similar conditions at the company's Columbus laundry.

Records show that Cintas has been cited for more than 170 OSHA violations in its facilities nationwide since 2003. Of that number, more than 70 citations were violations that OSHA determined could cause "death or serious physical harm." Cintas has paid nearly $200,000 in initial penalties, including more than $30,000 in penalties for "repeated" violations of the same identical standards in multiple company locations. Last year the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health listed Cintas as one of "America's 12 most dangerous employers."

It turns out Cincinnati City Councilman Chris Bortz — a member of the Charter Committee — did indeed try to get a cross endorsement from local Republicans. But it fell apart after some party members became angered when Bortz agreed to appoint Roxanne Qualls, a Democrat who is mostly liberal on social issues, to replace Jim Tarbell on city council.

The Republican Party's non-judicial appointing committee was scheduled to meet Aug. 14 to discuss the possible endorsement, and letters were sent to committee members earlier this month scheduling the meeting. The session was abruptly cancelled, however, after members complained about Qualls' Aug. 8 announcement about the city council appointment, sources said.

For more commentary on dangerous employers, racist radio and backroom political deals, visit CityBeat's Porkopolis blog at blogs.citybeat.com/Porkopolis.

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