In the liberal multi-cultural City of Berkeley, California and home of the internationally renowned and respected University of California where diversity is as common as apple pie. On the eve of the New Year, the sole African American employee at Utrecht Art Supply in Berkeley at the foot of U.C. Berkeley on University Avenue didn’t get an annual Christmas or New Year’s bonus, gift, party or a Merry Christmas or Happy New Year from his employer. But, the company granted his white co-worker’s New Year’s racist wish. On December 18, 2007, the store’s only African-American employee received a formal Separation and Release Agreement from his employer, because his white co-worker, John Paulson, the store manager didn’t feel “comfortable” working around African Americans. It certainty comes at an uncomfortable time for the young African American worker. It happened just before Christmas, and he is a dedicated hard working single parent raising two minor children. Jeff Olson, Utrecht Art Supply District Regional Manager flew in from Chicago and delivered Paulson’s wish that Jeff said had been gift wrapped and endorsed by Utrecht’s CEO, George Meunch, in Cranbury, New Jersey. Utrecht is a national chain of art supply stores founded in 1946 in New York by artist Norman Gulamerian and his brother Harold. The company is named after the street New Utrecht Avenue in Brooklyn, NY. Certainty, this is a new low in racial tolerance and relations in this country.
Racial uncomfortability instead of business necessity, ability, job performance, personal conduct, character and criminal convictions, as a justified ground to release employees from their jobs will certainty negatively impact the country’s economy and set race relations back to the stone age. I wish this wasn’t true especially for his young father, his two young children, for the moral character of this nation, and coming at Christmas and a New Year when our spirits are so low due to the wars, housing market crisis, high gas prices, and the economy. Reached for comment about the story at the Berkeley store, Paulson declined to comment, and referred the matter for comment to the company CEO, George Meunch. Mr. Meunch did not respond to repeated calls to his office, or a requested written e-mail comment to the story. More bad season cheer for the New Year, Utrecht is planning to expand and open up about twenty new art supply stores in cities with substantial populations of communities of color. An anonymous observer commented, “If they (Utrecht) don’t want people of color working in their stores, how do they reasonably expect people of color and people of conscious to continue to shop at their stores, or better yet open their arms to welcome this type of company with such senseless management styles of racial intolerance and insensitivity into their cities?” Will anyone at Utrecht that question?
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