NAACP report card gives Bell Atlantic 'B' for hiring, contracting with blacks But more minorities called for in upper ranks


The state's dominant telephone provider does relatively well in hiring, promoting and contracting with African-Americans, according to a score card of telecommunications companies released yesterday by the NAACP.

The New York-based Bell Atlantic Corp., which rated a B overall, received high marks on hiring blacks nationwide, except in the company's uppermost echelons: corporate officers and members of the board of directors. The company's lowest scores came in spending with black-owned media and black vendors, the report said.

More than a quarter of the company's 132,500 employees are people of color, and about one in 10 senior managers, is a minority, said Jacqueline B. Gates, a vice president for the company.

"The stronger our communities are, the stronger our consumers are and the better they can do business with us in a meaningful way," Gates said. "This report is a very substantive reflection of our company."

Said Michel L. Daley, a spokesman for Bell Atlantic, which has 2.3 million customers in Maryland: "I don't think we were surprised at the overall score. We were honored that the NAACP recognized us."

The report card, issued by the Baltimore-based National Association for the Advancement of Colored People at a Washington news conference, ranked 17 of the country's largest telecommunications companies on their hiring, promotion, charitable giving and contracting with blacks.

None received an A, but several received B's and B-minuses, with two receiving a D-plus and one an F.

"We're urging consumers to hang up on Alltel, hang up on AirTouch and hang up on Frontier," NAACP President Kweisi Mfume said, referring to the lowest-scoring companies. "These bottom three don't deserve the dollars coming out of the minority community in this country."

The Rochester, N.Y.-based Frontier, which scored the F because it failed to return the five-page survey, issued a statement yesterday, saying the information the NAACP requested was not available because of data systems changes at the company.

The report card was one of several being compiled by the NAACP in its call for companies that take in substantial revenues from blacks to return those rewards by hiring, promoting and giving to blacks.

Critics of such report cards argue that companies that provide the most detail on the surveys often get high scores while those who don't look worse. But Mfume and many of the dozens of representatives from telecommunications companies and associations that attended the news conference denied that.

"This reflects the old concept of market reciprocity -- a corporation ought to return back to the communities that support it in terms of revenues," said Richard Jose Bela of the Virginia-based Hispanic Association on Corporate Responsibility. "This moves affirmative action from a judicial enforcement tool to being market-driven."

Pub Date: 9/18/98

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