Texaco plan for diversity wins praise Black leaders call off boycott, campaign for stock divestiture

Goals but not quotas

Open-door program follows taped epithets, bias suit settlement

December 19, 1996|By James Bock | James Bock,SUN STAFF

WASHINGTON -- Texaco Inc. announced yesterday a sweeping plan to open doors for minorities and women, winning praise from civil rights leaders.

The Rev. Jesse L. Jackson called off a consumer boycott of Texaco, and NAACP President Kweisi Mfume shelved a threatened stock divestiture campaign.

Texaco pledged to boost minority employment, reward managers for achieving workplace diversity, triple the number of blacks who own retail outlets and increase purchasing from businesses owned by minorities and women.

The oil giant's diversity program came six weeks after the release of a tape recording in which Texaco executives belittled blacks and a month after the company settled a race discrimination lawsuit for $176.1 million.

"This is good business for Texaco," Texaco Chairman and CEO Peter I. Bijur said yesterday.

After weeks of negative publicity, it was, at the very least, good public relations.

"Texaco is on a journey from tragedy to triumph," Jackson said at a Washington news conference of the Black Leadership Forum. He praised Bijur's "courageous leadership."

Mfume called the Texaco plan "a promising step forward," and Hugh B. Price, president of the National Urban League, said Texaco was moving "from being an embarrassment to corporate America to being an exemplar."

The civil rights leaders vowed to monitor enforcement of the plan.

Bijur stressed that the Texaco plan laid out goals, not quotas. He pledged to hire the "best qualified candidates."

Texaco said it expected to:

Increase the percentage of minorities on its payroll from 23 percent to 29 percent and blacks from 9 percent to 13 percent by 2000 while raising the share of women from 32 percent to 35 percent.

Revamp its diversity training; include women and minorities on every company human resources committee, and establish an ombudsman program in which employees can consult confidential outside counselors.

Raise by 25 percent the number of black and female managers, and link managers' pay to their success in "creating openness and inclusion in the workplace."

Step up purchasing from minority- and women-owned businesses from $135 million in 1996 to an average of $200

million a year over the next five years, and increase business with minority-and women-owned banks and money managers from $32 million to $200 million.

Provide financing to expand the number of minority and women wholesalers, retailers and lubricant distributors.

Despite Texaco statements that the boycott had no discernible effect on sales, the civil rights leaders credited public pressure with forcing the company to develop the plan.

The black leaders said Texaco's program had a few "flaws," including failures to address environmental pollution in minority communities and to specify a goal for the number of black wholesalers. Several of Texaco's goals set targets for minorities, but not specifically for African-Americans.

But they were clearly pleased that, while affirmative-action programs are under assault in the political arena, Texaco had taken their demands seriously.

"This is a new era, a new message to all America, corporate or otherwise," said the Rev. Joseph P. Lowery, president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

"Texaco got caught with its britches down. Others' britches are loose and hanging. We want to provide belts of justice and suspenders of equity," Lowery said with a smile.

Mfume said the NAACP had spent a "tremendous amount of time" negotiating with Texaco. "Mr. Bijur and I have had more telephone conversations than I can imagine over the past 30 days," he said.

Mfume said the resulting plan puts the NAACP "in the forefront of a new kind of activism. The logical extension of the civil rights movement is economic empowerment. This establishes us as very serious about that."

Pub Date: 12/19/96

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