NAACP, Denny's owner agree on plan to aid blacks Accord will 'send message,' Chavis says

May 30, 1993|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,Staff Writer

The parent company of the Denny's restaurant chain, rocked by charges of racism in California and Annapolis, will complete by the end of next month an "historic" agreement with the NAACP to improve minority relations, the corporation announced yesterday.

While the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People has 74 similar fair-share agreements with other companies, officials from both sides said the one being negotiated with TW Services Inc. was by far the broadest and most far-reaching.

"I expect that this will be one of the most historic agreements in the history of the NAACP," said Benjamin F. Chavis Jr., the newly elected head of the Baltimore-based civil rights group.

"This will help send a message to all of corporate America that there are constructive ways to improve race relations," Dr. Chavis said in an interview. "This agreement will serve as a model for other major U.S. corporations."

TW Services, based in Spartanburg, S.C., employs a total of 120,000 people in all 50 states in restaurants that include Denny's, Hardee's and Quincy's Family Steakhouse. It is one of the largest food-service companies in the United States.

Neither Dr. Chavez nor Jerome J. Richardson, the chairman and chief executive officer of TW Services, would comment on specific parts of the agreement, which will be negotiated over the next 30 days. Nor would they say how much the agreement is apt to cost.

A company statement released yesterday following a four-hour meeting in Columbia, S.C., between TW executives and NAACP leaders said the agreement would cover such issues as minority franchise development, purchasing, recruiting, training and marketing.

The agreement also could be expanded to cover a National Football League franchise. Mr. Richardson -- a former receiver for the Baltimore Colts -- is the lead investor to get an expansion team in Charlotte, N.C., through a company called Richardson Sports. He said yesterday that minorities would be given the chance to invest in the team.

"It would be the first breakthrough in the NFL," said Dr. William F. Gibson, the NAACP's chairman of the board, explaining that there are no such current agreements in the football league.

Both Dr. Chavez and Mr. Richardson separated yesterday's announcement from the recent racial problems Denny's has experienced on the West Coast and in Annapolis.

On the same day the Justice Department signed a consent decree with TW Services on April 1 to end alleged racial discrimination in California, six black Secret Service agents charged they were denied service in a Denny's on West Street in Annapolis.

The six agents filed a lawsuit two weeks ago, and company officials fired the manager, charging that he failed to notify corporate officials that a discrimination complaint had been lodged against the restaurant.

Mr. Richardson said yesterday that the internal investigation into the Annapolis incident continued, but he emphasized that negotiations between company officials and the NAACP had been active for 18 months.

"The NAACP is going to help us become a more profitable company," Mr. Richardson said. "Our goal is to serve more people, not less people."

As part of the agreement, the NAACP will participate in a nationwide random testing program to ensure that Denny's treats all customers fairly, the company said.

That expands the consent decree signed in California, which mandated such testing on the West Coast, to include all of the company's 1,500 Denny's restaurants.

Also included in the agreement is the addition of a black member to TW Services' board of directors. Mr. Richardson said the board had one black member in the past.

"We still have a lot of specifics that have to be worked out," Dr. Chavez said, such as numerical goals and dates for accomplishing them.

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