There are a lot of unfair and discriminatory practices in this world. Sometimes you have to concentrate and focus in on a particular situation and decide to defeat it. The great orator Frederick Douglas once wrote “power concedes nothing without a demand”. Those words still hold true today. So when my office starts getting complaints about a particular firm I must make a decision – “Should I invest time and resources into this matter?” The big indicator is can we win and if we do does it make a noticeable difference for our constituents.
The situation with Volkswagen seems to yield a positive answer to that question. The auto industry is huge replete with billions of dollars in opportunities. This industry is full of public relations and empty of results when it comes to diversity in its procurement. An example needs to be made. An example that will tell the entire industry it is time to change your discriminatory practices. Volkswagen has offered us a great opportunity to expose the environment of this industry and tear down some doors. Hence, we will fight! The following letter to the President and CEO of Volkswagen tells it all:
Volkswagen Group of America
2200 Ferdinand Porsche Dr.
Herndon, VA 20171
Re: Discriminatory Practices in Procurement
Dear Mr. Jacoby:
This office has been receiving a constant wave of complaints from Black business owners who claim that your corporation, in its expansion to Chattanooga, TN, is going out of its way to not do business with them. There appears to be a violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act.
Violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is not just something ugly but it is illegal. This organization which happens to be the largest Black business association in the world (5 chapters in Tennessee) champions Title VI and will police it whenever there is a need. From the information I am receiving there appears to be a great need.
First of all, you have been given sizeable concessions from the governmental agencies of Tennessee. These concessions are funded through tax streams which every Black in Tennessee participates. If this segment of the population participates in building such concessions through their money then they should and must participate in the procurement phase (return on investment). If not, we call that in this country “taxation without representation”. Any corporation that chooses to discriminate upon receiving such concessions should be sanctioned and the concessions must be recalled. We are prepared to take any entity to court who thinks they can get away with such vile action. We have successfully changed the discriminatory activities of such corporations as Goodyear, Qwest (formerly US West), United Airlines, Chrysler and many more.
Your recent activities concerning the new facility in the areas of Architecture, Engineering and Construction Management were indeed discriminatory. Black firms were not even allowed to apply let alone compete. You sole sourced these opportunities. Sole sourcing is the most egregious manner of discrimination. It also drives up the costs due to lack of competition and that has a direct impact on your shareholders. Also, it breeds corruption as there is a lack of transparency.
Perhaps you have been advised by some of the elected officials to act in a discriminatory way. If so, this advice should not be followed as it will haunt your shareholders and damage your reputation. Corporate Responsibility is the burden of the CEO and Board Members. Thus, I appeal to your good conscience and demand that you direct your staff to improve your outreach and appeal to all ethnic business owners especially those based in the state of Tennessee. As your new facility is being built everyone should have the opportunity to compete for business. Presently, “avoidance” is the best de scri ption of your procurement division in regards to Black business owners. Sir, this will not be tolerated.
If we do not see improvement within the next thirty days, we will prepare for another serious battle against a CEO, Board of Directors and stockholders who feel it is their basic right to discriminate against and cheat the very people who fund their concessions. God does not like ugly and nor do we.
I am asking Sherrie Gilchrist, an NBCC Board Member and President of the Tennessee Multicultural Chamber of Commerce, to be our “eyes and ears” concerning this matter. Her contact information is: 535 Chestnut, Ste. 202, Chattanooga, TN 37402 tel. 423-265-0021, fax 423-265-0023.
May the next communication from me to you be more cordial and congratulatory. The outcome is up to you.
Harry C. Alford
Feel free to join the NBCC in this fight. Write your own letter to the Volkswagen CEO and whatever you do DON’T BUY A VOLKSWAGEN UNTIL THINGS CHANGE.
Mr. Alford is the co-founder, President/CEO, of the National Black Chamber of Commerce, Inc.