#LaughingWhileBlack fracas prompts diversity training for Napa wine train

The Napa Valley Wine Train has apologized to a women's book club after kicking them off the train this weekend for allegedly being too loud.

Eric Risberg/File/AP
The Napa Valley Wine Train as it makes its way through St. Helena, Calif. in 2011. This week, members of a mostly black book club say they believe they were kicked off the train because of their race. The women say they were ordered off the wine train Saturday for laughing and talking too loudly.

A Napa Valley Wine Train executive issued an apology on Tuesday to the Sisters on the Reading Edge book club, after reports that 10 of the 11 club members riding the train over the weekend had been kicked off for laughing and talking too loud went viral online. 

The group members say they were singled out because they are black.

The company’s chief executive officer Anthony "Tony" Giaccio issued an apology Tuesday saying the company was "100 percent wrong in its handling of this issue." Mr. Giaccio pledged to offer additional diversity training for employees. He also asked for their apologies for their "many mistakes and failures."

The incident created a social media storm, coalescing around the Twitter hashtag #LaughingWhileBlack.

Napa Valley Wine Train spokeswoman Kira Devitt told the San Francisco Chronicle that the company “received complaints from several parties in the same car and after three attempts from staff, requesting that the group keep the noise to an acceptable level, they were removed from the train and offered transportation back to the station in Napa.”

“They need to look at their own policies. I feel like we as a group were made to bear the consequences of their not having policy on seating their customers,” Lisa Johnson, an author from Antioch, who has organized the group's annual Napa day trips for the past 17 years, told Napa Valley Register Sunday afternoon. "They need to give sensitivity training to their staff immediately. We want a public apology for how they treated us and for the public humiliation, which is unacceptable for anybody.”

However, Ms. Devitt, said that removal for disturbing other passengers is “not an uncommon occurrence."

“If guests are being severely disruptive, that’s when we discuss whether they should be removed,” said Devitt. “We don’t make that judgment unless we receive a complaint from the people around them.”

According to Slate, another woman has accused the Napa Valley Wine Train of racial bias for threatening to remove her party – which she described as being made up of “all Latino individuals,” the majority of whom were local University of California, Berkeley graduates – from the train after a noise complaint made against them in April.

 This report contains material from the Associated Press and Reuters.

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