Pharmaceutical giant Merck launched an investigation after a contractor has found a “noose-like rope” a construction project on its plant campus in Durham, North Carolina, where J&J Covid-19 vaccine will be produced, local media reported.
“Actions such as these will NOT be tolerated and individuals found committing such acts will be dealt with swiftly and severely,” site management said in the email signed by 17 people. “As a leadership team, we are disgusted that anyone on our plant site would engage in such behavior.”
Merck agreed in March to use its Durham facility to help rival Johnson & Johnson to manufacture its Covid-19 vaccine by producing bulk substances required for it.
“Actions such as these will NOT be tolerated and individuals found committing such acts will be dealt with swiftly and severely. As a leadership team, we are disgusted that anyone on our plant site would engage in such behavior,” the site operator told the News and Observer in an email.
Merck confirmed the investigation, declaring zero tolerance for racism and discrimination in the workplace with regard to nooses that have been used as symbols of racism and hate towards Black people, alluding to the racial violence and lynchings that took the lives of thousands of people in the 19th and 20th centuries.
“We have zero tolerance for hate, racism, or discrimination in our workplace or society. Individually and collectively we must and we will stand together against racism, hate and discrimination,” the company said in the statement sent to the newspapers by Merck spokesman Patrick Ryan, but did not provide additional details pertaining to the incident.
Similar incidents have happened that led to the shutdown of an Amazon construction site in Connecticut in May after as many as eight ropes tied like a noose were unearthed, sparking a police and FBI investigation into a potential hate crime, offering a reward of $100,000 for information on those behind the actions.