Jesse Jackson: "Car companies want the global market of consumers but not the global market of talent."
At Rainbow/PUSH's fifth annual Automotive Symposium on Sept. 23, Jackson discussed his mission with Staff Reporter Julie Armstrong.
What is the state of minority suppliers?
It's unfair. We don't get in by inheritance and access; we often get in through protest.
Our evolution has gone from working at a plant on assembly lines to being able to buy a car, becoming a car salesman, then car dealer and finally to do some supplying.
And all this is really just since 1965.
Effort and excellence matter, but inheritance and access matter more. Relationships come from that. You do business with who you know, trust and like.
Whatever our color may be, our gender may be, our religion may be, from a business point, we represent market, money, talent, location and growth.
And many of our markets are still underserved.
How do you perceive the import brands' efforts with minority suppliers?
Toyota's growing. We began negotiating with them three years ago.
But we intend for all of them to grow.
Our inability to cope or produce or compete must be dispelled because it's not true.
Are automakers welcoming your efforts to participate in their shareholder meetings?
We've been to Japan. We've been to GM meetings. They know we're coming, and we raise our concerns at the meeting. There's always an agenda item. And we meet with them after or before the meeting.
Every time we open another door, it's mutually beneficial. We're going to investigate why there's such slow growth.
Car companies want the global market of consumers but not the global market of talent. They have talent right under their nose in Detroit.
How many shares are you buying in each of the companies?
We usually buy a couple thousand dollars' worth.
We always buy enough stock to get access to the shareholders' meeting.
We're not buying the shares to make a profit. It's a point of access.
If they're about to do a merger or an expansion of some sort, we'll (ask questions) that they must answer.
What can you accomplish in these shareholder meetings?
Oftentimes, we're revealing the inconsistencies publicly.
Every time they face the facts of the inequities publicly, they seek to make adjustments.
We expose the zeros (in spending with minorities). The zeros always embarrass them.
How long will it take to get equity for minority suppliers?
I don't know. We'll keep applying the pressure.
You may e-mail Julie Armstrong at [email protected]