NAACP gives Alltel an F

Communications firm gets failing grade on minority practices

Bell Atlantic improves


July 14, 1999|By Erin Texeira | Erin Texeira,SUN STAFF

NEW YORK -- Although some companies, including Bell Atlantic Corp., are improving the racial diversity of their operations, NAACP leaders yesterday criticized major hotel and telecommunications companies of failing to adequately hire, promote and contract with minorities.

In all, 13 hotels and 15 telecommunications companies were rated.

Alltel Corp. of Little Rock, Ark., was awarded an F, the lowest grade for a telecommunications company.

The lowest-ranked hotel chain was Omni Hotels, which received a C.

"We want reciprocal understanding and reciprocal relationships with corporations," said Kweisi Mfume, president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, speaking at the organization's annual convention here. "The street has for too long been one way."

"[Minorities] have money that spends. We must find a way to spend wisely," he said.

ITT Sheraton, a division of Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc. that was one of the organization's lowest-ranked hotel companies -- receiving a C -- is home this week in New York to the youth branch of the NAACP convention.

The situation was unavoidable, said Linda Haithcox, director of economic development for the Baltimore-based civil rights organization, because reservations for the convention were made three to four years ago.

Other convention events are being held at the midtown Hilton. Hilton Hotel Corp. was rated a B.

Data in the ratings are derived from hotel and telecommunications companies' reports on how many people of color they employ at all levels of their organizations, whether they focus advertising and philanthropic efforts on minority markets and whether they contract with minority vendors.

Companies are scored on a four-point scale. None has ever received better than a B+, and several have received Fs.

BellSouth Corp. scored highest among telecommunications companies, with a B+.

Bell Atlantic Corp., which last year ranked fourth in the telecommunications rankings, this year moved to second through more vigorous contracting, hiring and promoting of people of color, particularly blacks, said Ramon Moya, a Bell Atlantic official who works with contractors.

"We're not where we want to be, but this is very big," Moya said. "The corporation's reputation is on the line."

Mfume said that when the first evaluations were issued three years ago, they were not taken seriously.

"We were laughed at three years ago by the hotel industry," Mfume said yesterday. "Interestingly enough, others took us very seriously -- very, very seriously."

For example, Marriott officials requested meetings with Mfume for advice on improving their diversity programs. This year, Marriott received the best rating of any hotel company, a B+.

The report cards are taken seriously by many business executives who are concerned with diversity, said Julie Pierce Williams, a consultant with BNA Communications, a company in Rockville, Md., that focuses on gender and racial diversity in workplaces.

Adam's Mark Hotels and Resorts was not ranked because it is being sued by the NAACP, though company officials say the chain has an exemplary record on minority hiring and promotion.

The suit claims the chain's hotel in Daytona Beach, Fla., discriminated against five black students during spring break. The students say the hotel required them to wear wristbands to identify them as hotel guests while white students were not.

Other hotel companies and their rankings were: Cendant Corp., B+; Best Western International Inc., B-; Promus Hotel Corp., B-; Choice Hotels International Inc., C+; Hyatt Corp., C+; Radisson Hotels Worldwide, C+; Four Seasons Hotels Inc., C+; Bass/Holiday Hotels & Resorts, C; Wyndham International Inc., C; and Starwood, C.

Other telecommunications companies and their rankings were: SBC Communications Inc., B; Ameritech Corp., B; GTE Corp., B, AT&T, B-; Cincinnati Bell Inc., C+; MCI/Worldcom Inc., C+; Excel Corp., C; Sprint Communications Co., C; Frontier Corp., C; US West Inc., C; Airtouch Communications Inc., C; and Qwest Communications Inc., D+.

Pub Date: 7/14/99

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