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Opportunity and Diversity One Industry at a Time

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(NNPA) There is a missing component to the national discussion concerning how to strengthen and rebuild the American economy. It is true that high unemployment, a weak national infrastructure, the need for stronger public education, the concentration of wealth and the deficit are all challenges to the nation’s economy but being left out of the discussion is the continued economic marginalization of racial and ethnic minorities.

The American economy has always been strongest when it’s kept the middle class within reach for most Americans. But with white households holding nearly 20 times the wealth of black or Latino households, and with rising disparities in unemployment, poverty, and income, the future of the middle class has never looked more uncertain. As the country rapidly becomes majority-minority the nation’s economic well-being is increasingly tied to overcoming racial economic inequality.

The economic challenges that people of color face is reflected in the recently released NAACP Opportunity and Diversity Report Card which analyzes the hotel and lodging industry. Mediocre grades among the five leading hotels we examined—Hyatt, Starwood, Wyndham, Marriott and Hilton—reveal the widespread lack of investment in minority suppliers, the over representation of people of color in the lowest paying entry level positions, the under representation in the more highly paid career track positions and finally a lack of commitment to collecting basic diversity data that could be used to strengthen inclusion efforts.

Our report shows that black-owned businesses, which comprise 7% of all businesses in the U.S., make up only 0.9% of all vendors receipts —a troubling red flag that signals how far corporate America has to go in their supplier diversity outreach. And while people of color are 36% of the population, only 13% of the governing bodies in the hotel and lodging industry consists of people of color.

One of the most disconcerting findings of our report card is that all of the top 5 hotel and lodging corporations do not collect diversity data from their franchise properties. This means for four out of five of these leading corporations no data is collected for the majority of their individual hotels. This is unacceptable.

The NAACP is calling for these corporations to collect the diversity data already mandated by the government through EEO1 reports. We are also asking for planners of major events to request EEO1 reports from any individual hotel they are considering for their event so they can make diversity and inclusion part of their assessment as to which hotel is worthy of their business. The National Coalition of Black Meeting Planners has already voiced support for this action and we will be working with our community and civil rights partners as well as local bureaus of tourism to make widespread the use of EEO1 data as an important and widely used factor for determining which hotels qualify to hold major events.

The EEO1 survey is a primary means that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission uses to advance its mission derived from the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act focused on prohibiting racial discrimination in employment and almost 60 years later we still find great racial and ethnic disparities in business and its workforce. The Opportunity and Diversity Report Card and our call to action for greater use of EEO1 data should not be seen as just a “civil rights” matter but should be understood as a means of dealing with one of the greatest threats facing the American economy over the next thirty years, racial economic inequality. We at the NAACP have always seen racial inequality as a grave threat to the country and in the next few decades if serious action isn’t taken to bridge this divide the entire nation will see the economic results of this inequality.

Republicans are Driving in the Wrong Direction

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By Raynard Jackson
NNPA Columnist

I am constantly amazed by the lack of any meaningful, insightful post-election analysis on the various media outlets (radio, TV, newspapers). You would think that everyone is hanging out at the same places because all the analysis seems to be the same: “Republicans have to find a way to garner more of the Hispanic vote.”

So, if I am to believe these so-called analysts, the Black vote is irrelevant and non-existent. The Black vote is rarely mentioned as being important to either party. Democratic analysts treat the Black vote as just a given – Blacks will vote Democratic. Therefore, there is no need to discuss them. In other words, they are taken for granted. On the Republican side, the Black vote is simply ignored and considered a waste of time as I was told in no uncertain terms by some in the Mitt Romney camp.

This is what the so called experts are missing: According to the Census Bureau, there are about 50 million Hispanics in the U.S. Approximately 12 million are believed to be in the country illegally. So, that leaves 38 million Hispanics who are Americans. Of the 38 million, approximately 40 percent are voting age population (VAP). Therefore there are about 15 million Hispanics that are eligible to vote.

Hispanics are approximately 16 percent of the nation’s population, but only 10 percent of eligible voters. Even worse, only 7 percent vote. The Hispanic population of eligible voter is smaller than any other group (VAP). The VAP for Whites is more than 77 percent, for Blacks 67 percent, and for Asians 52 percent.

Approximately 69 percent of Black VAP and 58 percent of Hispanic VAP are registered to vote; there are more than 7 million people in each group of VAP who are not registered to vote. According to the Pew Hispanic Center, more than 25 million Blacks were eligible to vote in November. For Whites, the figure was 152 million. Each group alone was larger than the Hispanic electorate.

As you know, Hispanics are an ethnic group, not a race. And they can self-identify as either Black or White. Even in reaching out to Hispanics, some GOP handlers are ignoring the fact that there are Black Hispanics.

So, all the hype about the power of the Hispanic vote is just that – hype. But, the bigger message to the Republican Party is: Stop picking various demographic groups to be your flavor of the month. Go after all the votes in earnest. And while they are at it, pay more attention to the Black vote. It’s simple arithmetic.

When you understand the story of the Cadillac car, you will then understand the opportunity the Republican Party is in danger of blowing. If Republicans continue to have leadership that views the Black vote as a waste of time, then the party will go down the path the Cadillac was on. What saved Cadillac was new leadership that busted down the door to the corporate suite and basically demanded a change in policy toward the Black community. hat change of policy saved Cadillac from extinction just as a change of policy can save for the Republican Party from walking down a similar path.

But who is that leader? Who is willing to kick the door down and demand a change in policy? Is it current party chairman, Reince Preibus? Is New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie? Is it Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal? Or is it us? Is it that man in the mirror?

What are we Black Republicans willing to do to force change upon our party? I have tried but I can’t do it alone. Who is prepared to join me? Who is willing to stop looking for validation from Whites within the party? Who is willing to forego being invited to “the Christmas party” just for the photo-op?

These questions will be answered by early next year. Time is not on the side of the Republican Party. The car is in the mechanic’s shop; but what Republican mechanic (i.e. leader, consultant, or operative) can take a 20th century car and convert it into a 21st century Cadillac?

Raynard Jackson is president & CEO of Raynard Jackson & Associates, LLC., a Washington, D.C.-based public relations/government affairs firm. He can be reached through his Web site, www.raynardjackson.com.

Troubled Waters on the Mighty Mississippi

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(NNPA) The Mississippi River is a great blessing from God. Besides being the largest river in our nation, it is a major vehicle of commerce. It borders the states of Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi and Louisiana. In addition, its tributaries reached out to a total of 31 states. A significant amount of ports handle the robust amount of shipping that occurs 24/7 on this magnificent consortium of water.

A few years ago, the Asian Carp invaded the Mississippi River through fishing farms that flooded into the river. There was movement from some groups to cut off the Illinois River from flowing from the Mississippi River into Lake Michigan to prevent further spread of the fish. We joined in the fight against this radical solution. Eventually they found ways to stop the spreading of this unwanted species without killing commerce throughout the Midwest and Great Lakes regions. There was just no way they were going to shut down any part of the Mississippi River. That’s how important it is.

Now we have a different crisis. The area along the northern end of the river is facing a drought. It rivals the drought of 1989. It is threatening reduced commerce along the river. The reduced depth of the river is making shipping somewhat prohibitive. Companies in the navigation industry along these rivers are now shipping less material by “light loading” fleets which make each load less profitable. In addition to the low levels of water, rocks known as pinnacles are emerging through the shallow levels and risking serious damage to the vessels.

If the Mississippi River becomes closed to commerce, that will also affect shipping on the Ohio and Missouri rivers and make the Great Lakes a one way shipping vehicle. It would halt hundreds of millions of tons of essential goods and commodities such as corn, grain, coal, petroleum, chemicals and many other products important to the national economy. Cargo valued at more than $7 billion, including 300 million bushels of agricultural products and 3.8 million tons of coal could experience serious delays that will have a ripple effect and damage all of our local communities. Let’s not overlook the likelihood of five barrels of domestically produced crude oil not being shipped and purchases of imported crude oil will increase by about $550 million as a result.

This situation is a job killer. Lost of jobs and skyrocketing of consumer prices will further hurt our weak economy. However, there is a simple solution to this state of misfortune. All the president has to do is to instruct the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to continue, in fact increase, the flow of waters coming from the Missouri River dams and reservoirs. Right now the Corps is scheduled to actually stop these flows of water by mid-December through the spring. They aren’t scheduled to dredge and remove the rock pinnacles located between St. Louis and Cairo, Ill. until late spring. Shutting the water flows now and waiting to dredge and remove the pinnacles is a blueprint for disaster. The president can do this by simply declaring an emergency and implement the Stafford Act. If there ever was an emergency, this is it.

The protocol for having the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers manage the water system of the Mississippi River was created as a result of the Great Flood of 1927. Secretary of Commerce Herbert Hoover became immensely popular for successfully managing this task. It was the biggest reason he was elected president in 1928. However, he segregated the victims by race and broke many promises made to the Colored Advisory Commission. This caused much disappointment among African Americans who were predominantly members of the Republican Party. The emergence of Franklin Delano Roosevelt and his first lady, Eleanor, who reached out to African Americans changed the whole demographic. Blacks started moving over to the Democratic Party.

We need more of a public outcry on the river situation. Pleas for the president to react accordingly have come in writing by the governors of Illinois, Missouri and Iowa. Fifteen U.S. Senators have also written pleading for the president’s action. Also, 62 members of the House of Representatives have written, including members of the Congressional Black Caucus (Elijah Cummings, Lacy Clay, Cedric Richmond, Bennie Thompson, Emanuel Cleaver, Terri Sewell, Danny Davis and Bobby Rush).

It is time for all of us to show big time concern. Call your senator, congressperson, governor and talk it up on your favorite radio talk show. Write to people as I am doing now. We don’t need additional hits to our economic situation. The nation is fragile and good stewardship with rapid action is needed.

Harry C. Alford is the co-founder, president/CEO of the National Black Chamber of Commerce. Website: www.nationalbcc.org. Email: halford@nationalbcc.org.

Another Look at the Republican Party

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“Any time you throw your weight behind a political party that can’t keep promises it made you during election time and you’re dumb enough to continue to identify with that political party, you’re not only a chump but traitor to your race.” – Malcolm X

By William Reed
NNPA Columnist

(NNPA) What’s your personal political ideology and most important value? Do you agree that certain political parties and issues are more important to Blacks than Whites? A political party typically seeks to influence government policy, usually by nominating candidates with aligned political views and trying to seat them in political office. In your political alignments, are you getting what you need and deserve in return, and not chump change?

It was a Republican president who signed the Emancipation Proclamation. The Republicans Party was the party of most Blacks prior to the 1960s, including Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth, Booker T. Washington, and Dr. Martin Luther King, Sr. Some of the founding fathers of the NAACP were Republicans as was the party that desegregated the South’s schools and implemented America’s affirmative action programs. Republicans believe in the free enterprise system. The Office of Minority Business Enterprise, a federal agency dedicated to minority business, was established by Republican President Richard Nixon in March of 1969.

African-American history is most often presented through liberal political lens that skew contributions and examples of African Americans outside the liberal mainstream. Black Americans have been taught that Republicans are racist and care nothing about Black empowerment. Black Republicans are often labeled “insufficiently Black.”

In truth, the history of the Republican Party’s relationship with Blacks is one of a bright start followed by steady decline. Unfortunately, a reliance on family and faith has become a casualty of the modern welfare state, contributed to the destruction of family cohesion and supplanted faith in God with faith in government. Black conservatism is a political and social movement rooted in communities of African descent that aligns largely with the American conservative movement.

Since the Civil Rights Movement, the African-American community has generally fallen to the left of the political spectrum and has aligned itself on the side of liberalism, but Black conservatism emphasizes traditionalism, capitalism, free markets, and social values consistent with the context of Blacks and their religious beliefs. “Our goals promote freedom for all and encouraging entrepreneurship,” says Donald Scoggins of the Republicans for Black Empowerment. In light of 2012 election results, Scoggins is on a mission to retool the Republican Party. He’s seeking to raise profiles and awareness of Black Republicans and their number of elected officials. Scoggins invites inquires via Donelsco@aol.com.

Allen West is an example of an elected Black Republican. Atlanta-born West, who was defeated for re-election this year, is known for comments alleging that Democratic “handouts” to the poor have resulted in a “modern form of slavery” and rejects Black History Month honors the achievements of African-Americans throughout history and that is a good thing.Unfortunately, a reliance on family and faith, which allowed many African-Americans to survive the horrors of Reconstruction, racial injustice and violent acts of discrimination, has become a casualty of the modern welfare state, which has contributed to the destruction of family cohesion, supplanted faith in God with faith in government and fashioned many African-Americans into a Democratic voting bloc that has not improved the lot of the impoverished among them.

While African-American history is important, the way it is most often presented through a liberal political lens skews the contributions and examples of African-Americans who do not toe the liberal line.One especially sees this in the civil rights establishment’s response to Justice Clarence Thomas and more recently to Rep. Allen West, R-Fl “the idea of the safety net becoming a hammock.” West’s point is that Democrats who claim to care so for African Americans, in reality, have done them a grave disservice by perpetuating myths of Republican racism and addicting them to a government check instead of liberation through education and strong families. Heritage Foundation data supports West saying: “The public’s dependence on the federal government shot up 23 percent under President Obama.”

Since the 1930s, the Democratic Party has put forth and promoted social liberal and progressive platforms; and for more than 40 years Blacks have increasingly aligned themselves with Democrats rarely questioning social policies rooted in low expectations and government dependency; economic and tax policies that stifle economic growth, job creation, personal savings and investment; and education policies that refuse to subject public schools to the competition of “school choice.”

Blacks are naïve if they continue in their status and low regard among either of the dominant parties. The Democrats, led by President Obama, plainly ignore Blacks, while the Republican establishment disrespects and disregards us. But, apparently Blacks cannot envision leveraging our voting bloc into party platforms, policies and programs that reflect Black Americans’ needs and wants.

William Reed is head of the Business Exchange Network and available for speaking/seminar projects through the Bailey Group.org.

Retail Employment and the Wal-Mart Effect

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(NNPA) I remember one of my first jobs. I was a senior in high school in Mount Vernon, N,Y., a suburb of New York City, and I got a job at a sporting goods store. The pay seemed decent, at least that is how I remember it. But what was noteworthy was that older adults worked in the store and had worked in the store for some time. No, I don’t mean retirees who are forced to work because their Social Security is not enough; I mean non-retirees who had made a life for themselves in the retail industry.

It was not uncommon to go to major stores and find employees who had made a career in the retail industry. But it was not just major stores. There were plenty of smaller stores like the sporting goods store that employed me that held onto employees.

Like many other industries in the USA, retail underwent changes that have produced an entirely different work environment and work force. In efforts to secure greater profits, salaries have been reduced, hours altered (and in many cases sliced), and the target workforce has become either younger adults or senior citizens. In either case, the employers do not have or promote the expectation of employment longevity. The bottom line is that it has become less and less possible for a worker to make a living working retail. This is the portion of the workforce that has been described as being the underemployed, i.e., those who have a job (whether part-time or full-time) that simply cannot sustain their living standard.

We have been hearing more and more about the horrendous working conditions at Wal-Mart. While Wal-Mart is a leader in the new retail industry—with a very vulnerable workforce—it is not standing alone. They have succeeded in promoting a precarious employment environment for their workers and, in doing so, have helped to set a pattern for the rest of the industry. As opposed to unionized retail workers of days gone by who might have had pensions and healthcare, with Wal-Mart you have no unions, few benefits, and an excessive amount of vulnerability.

I wish that Wal-Mart was the only such employer. Retail employers are failing to invest in their workforce. Claiming that they will not be able to compete, they have attempted to keep the salaries/wages of retail workers low. They are even prepared to accept a transitory workforce where it is not expected that a worker will stay for long. The problem, at least from the standpoint of the worker, is that you may sicken of a particular employer but rather than social mobility up, you as a retail worker live the life of the lateral pass, going from employer to employer, but rarely rising to a respectable living standard.

The reality is that this situation will not change until and unless retail workers win unionization. As long as employers can compete against one another on the basis of who offers the lowest wages, retail workers will not only be pitted against one another but will find themselves caught in an employment maelstrom, whirling around and around, eventually sinking.

As consumers we are being taught to close our eyes to the conditions of retail workers, only looking for the best bargains, but here’s my question, to paraphrase the words of the late president of the United Auto Worker, Walter Reuther: If we keep letting the condition of retail workers sink so that there are alleged bargains for the consumers, who will be in a position to buy the products?

I don’t see this question asked and answered on the business pages of my local newspapers. How about you?

Bill Fletcher, Jr. is a Senior Scholar with the Institute for Policy Studies, the immediate past president of TransAfrica Forum, and the author of “They’re Bankrupting Us!” – And Twenty Other Myths about Unions. He can be reached at papaq54@hotmail.com.

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