NAACP's phone company survey finds need to increase diversity Civil rights group's report to be released at news conference today

September 17, 1998|By Erin Texeira | Erin Texeira,SUN STAFF

African-Americans are underrepresented at most of the country's major telecommunications companies in employment, promotions, subcontracting and philanthropy, according to new NAACP data to be released today and obtained by The Sun.

Among the 17 companies rated from the organization's surveys, Frontier Corp., based in Rochester, N.Y., got the worst grade -- jTC an F -- for failing to respond to the survey, according to Kweisi Mfume, president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

Three companies received B's and, among those, Atlanta-based Bell South Corp. received the highest numerical score, Mfume said. Two companies got D's and 11 got C's. The rankings will be disclosed at a news conference at the National Press Club in Washington today.

"We think this data is important because we believe strongly there has to be a reciprocal relationship between corporate entities and consumers," Mfume said in an interview. "We must insist on economic reciprocity, not just economic generosity."

The Baltimore-based NAACP today will highlight its findings as part of the organization's push to grade industries that profit from black consumers but often do not give back to the black community.

Bell South representatives, who will attend the news conference, said the company's favorable rating reflected its efforts to encourage ethnic diversity.

"That's wonderful news," said Bill McCloskey, Bell South's director of media relations. "It was really a great exercise for us to get this questionnaire from the NAACP. It helped raise our consciousness."

Mfume said African-Americans spend about $10 billion a year on telecommunications, an industry that brings in more than $300 trillion dollars a year.

A spokesman from the United States Telephone Association, which represents about 1,200 telecommunications companies, said minority representation has not been widely addressed in the industry.

"I have not heard that this is an issue," said spokesman David A. Bolger. "But I know these are very large companies and very forward-thinking companies."

A spokeswoman from Frontier Corp. said yesterday that staff members received the NAACP survey but internal mix-ups led them to miss the deadline for returning complete data.

"We receive surveys like this all the time and I know that information is readily available," said Michele Sadwick, vice president of communication for Frontier, which offers cellular, paging, and long-distance services. "I don't know what happened here."

Sadwick added that Frontier, a large telecommunications company with subsidiaries in many states, but none in Maryland, has long focused on increasing its work with minority vendors. No data were available on what percentage of the company's 9,000 employees are members of minority groups, she said.

The report is the second industry review issued by the NAACP. The first, a report card on the hotel industry released in June, called for a boycott of three major hotel chains, Best Western, Holiday Inn and Westin.

The industries are chosen, Mfume said, because African-Americans spend millions of dollars a year at hotels and on telephone services, for instance, but often receive proportionately less -- in salaries, contracts and donations -- in return from those companies.

Another report card, grading members of Congress, was released this summer, and another, on cable and satellite companies, is in the works, said Sheila Douglas, a spokeswoman for the NAACP.

The companies surveyed in this report card were AirTouch Communications Inc., ALLTEL Corp., Ameritech Corp., AT&T, Bell Atlantic Corp., BellSouth, Cincinnati Bell, Comcast, Excel, Frontier, GTE Corp., LCI International Inc., MCI Communications (to be acquired by Worldcom Inc.), SBC Communications, SNET, Sprint Corp. and U S West.

Pub Date: 9/17/98

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