WASHINGTON (AP) — The president of Texaco said racial discrimination problems at his company represent just the tip of the iceberg in corporate America.
Other company leaders should examine their management and workers at their companies for similar signs of racism, Peter Bijur, Texaco’s president and chief executive officer, said Sunday on CNN’s “Late Edition.”
“I would suggest that we are just seeing the tip of the iceberg here,” said Bijur, whose company agreed last week to pay $176.1 million to settle a racial discrimination lawsuit.
“It’s important to drill down below that very tip and get down into what’s beneath and find out what’s going on. That’s what I’ve done in the last two weeks, and that’s what I think needs to be done.”
Civil rights leaders echoed Bijur’s concerns Sunday, contending that other companies have similar problems that haven’t been uncovered.
“The difference is, in the case of Texaco, they got caught,” civil rights activist Jesse Jackson said Sunday on CBS’ “Face the Nation.” “But there are other companies that have not been caught.”
National Association for the Advancement of Colored People President Kweisi Mfume said lessons learned from the lawsuit can be applied even more broadly.
“The message clearly resonates beyond corporate America,” Mfume said on “Late Edition.” “It’s not just the private sector. It’s also the public sector. It’s not just Texaco, but it’s what’s happening at Amoco and other places.”
Texaco will pay $115 million to about 1,400 current and former employees and to give black employees 10 percent raises. The company also agreed to spend $35 million on a task force to recruit black workers, monitor discrimination and develop diversity and sensitivity training.
The agreement’s $176.1 million price tag makes it the largest settlement of a racial discrimination lawsuit in U.S. history.
But it pales compared to $1.2 billion in reparations Congress appropriated in 1988 to Japanese-Americans as compensation for their internment in camps during World War II. Payments of $20,000 each went to about 79,000 internees still living. That settlement did not result from a lawsuit.
Both Mfume and Jackson hailed the Texaco settlement as a good first step, but said much remains to be done. Both civil rights leaders want changes in employment practices, the working environment, economic development and enforcement of anti-discrimination policies.
Jackson’s Rainbow Coalition continued its call for a boycott of Texaco stock and the use of its credit cards to keep the pressure on, Jackson said. Though the NAACP, the country’s largest civil rights organization, is not organizing a boycott, the group doesn’t condemn people who picket or boycott the company, Mfume said.
While Texaco president Bijur said he expects to implement short- and long-term plans to combat racism, he doubts if the efforts will change the real problem.
“I am committed to changing people’s behavior,” Bijur said. “Can you change their attitudes? I’m not so sure.”