Ministers to urge Texaco boycott Local dealers say Jackson's call has little effect hTC

November 15, 1996|By James Bock | James Bock,SUN STAFF

While local black ministers planned to urge motorists today not to buy Texaco products, area Texaco dealers said yesterday they hadn't felt much impact from the Rev. Jesse L. Jackson's call for a boycott of their stations.

Meanwhile, the NAACP, which has given Texaco Inc. 30 days to develop a plan to improve its treatment of minorities, outlined its demands to the oil company and threatened to launch a stock divestiture campaign if they are not met.

The Rev. John L. Wright, president of the United Missionary Baptist Convention, said his group and others, including the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance, would call for a boycott at a morning news conference in Baltimore.

"We're not for sale, and we're not buying anything," Wright said. "People who have credit cards should cut them up and turn them in. Do not spend a dime."

Texaco has been under fire since it was disclosed Nov. 4 that high-ranking Texaco executives, in a tape-recorded 1994 conversation, made disparaging remarks about blacks, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa, and discussed destroying documents on minority hiring.

"It's blatant racism," Wright said. "It's the old plantation again. It's a lynch mob towards black people and economic development."

Arthur Abramson, executive director of the Baltimore Jewish Council, deplored the Texaco executives' "racist and anti-Semitic" comments, but he said Jews have often been victims of boycotts and "therefore are very loath to participate in them."

The oil company faces a racial-discrimination lawsuit brought on behalf of 1,400 black current and former employees. Texaco's chairman and chief executive, Peter I. Bijur, has pledged to settle the suit as quickly as possible.

Yesterday two shareholders filed a related suit against Texaco in New York, claiming that corporate mismanagement fostered a racist climate that damaged the company's image. They seek unspecified damages.

Jackson called for picketing of Texaco stations this weekend if the class-action suit isn't settled.

Tom West, executive vice president of the National Association of Texaco Wholesalers, said Jackson's call for a boycott "doesn't seem to have had much of an effect so far, but we're concerned about this weekend if there is picketing. Anytime you have pickets, there's always the chance of an incident."

West said only 1,000 of the nation's 14,000 Texaco stations are company-owned. Texaco, with 192 stations in Maryland, has 8 percent of the state's market, trailing leaders such as Exxon, Amoco and Shell.

Roy Littlefield, executive director of the Washington Maryland Delaware Service Station Association, said he received one call from a Texaco dealer in a black Washington neighborhood where teen-agers in the street were telling motorists to drive away.

"None of the dealers, white or black, have anything to do with what happened," Littlefield said. "The guy who gets hurt is the little guy."

Charles Ward, assistant manager of Barbee's Texaco in Southwest Baltimore, said: "I can't figure out why people pick on individual dealers for what headquarters does. We've been on this corner for 46 years, from when gas was 15 cents a gallon to the present. We get a lot of black people coming here, and I treat one as I do the other."

David Lawrence, the owner of Reisterstown Texaco, said Jackson's boycott had a reverse effect: It increased his business.

"Last night I bet I had 20 people who said, 'Jesse Jackson said I can't deal here, so here I am.' Needless to say, they weren't black people. I honestly think people are tired of it," he said.

Dewey Davis, whose Texaco station on Park Heights Avenue south of Northern Parkway serves a majority black clientele, said business was normal.

"People think because the bigwigs did it, we knew about it. We didn't know nothing," he said. "We only handle their products."

NAACP President Kweisi Mfume said in a statement that he expected Texaco to establish "specific goals and timetables" to boost minority hiring and promotion; do more business with black vendors; increase the number of African-American distributors and dealers; invest in black venture-capital funds; make donations to charities that serve the black community, and develop a program to increase workplace tolerance.

Mfume met with Bijur Tuesday in Baltimore and has formed an NAACP task force to negotiate with the oil giant.

Pub Date: 11/15/96

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