By targeting Anheuser-Busch Companies Inc. in a national boycott of major U.S. corporations, Chicago-based Operation PUSH may wind up doing more harm than good where minority businesses are concerned.
At least two minority banks in the District could be affected indirectly by PUSH's threatened boycott of Budweiser beer and other Anheuser-Busch products. What's more, several other local businesses could feel the impact of a boycott of the product in the long run.
The irony of PUSH's campaign against Anheuser-Busch is that the brewer has a strong record of supporting minority business and higher education for minority students.
Nonetheless, the Rev. Jesse Jackson, PUSH's founder and principal spokesman, announced here during the weekend that his organization is calling for a boycott of Budweiser.
Anheuser-Busch is one of 20 or more corporations that have been targeted for talks or boycotts if they fail to agree to PUSH's demands for more blacks in management and ownership roles.
PUSH has chosen the beverage industry for what Jackson euphemistically calls a "withdrawal of enthusiam" campaign to "renegotiate" black America's relations with corporate America. PUSH considers the beverage industry a highly visible and vulnerable target because of what the organization views as its relatively small number of blacks in management and among franchise owners.
But PUSH's campaign to pressure Anheuser-Busch into awarding blacks more franchises is "a decision which is illogically and morally indefensible," insists Wayman F. Smith III, the company's vice president for corporate affairs. The company's "commitment" to assisting minority businesses is "broad-based," Smith contends.
Indeed, Anheuser-Busch has done "substantially" more than many corporations have in that regard, observed the vice president of the National Bankers Association, a Washington-based trade association for minority banks.
"That's not to say [Anheuser-Busch] is doing all that it can," said the NBA's David Johnson. "What it is saying is that they're supporting several minority banks which support their communities through loans to minority businesses which help the economy in those communities."
Anheuser-Busch's payroll account at Washington's United National Bank will enable that black-owned bank to "make investments that will generate new dollars for our community," the bank's president, Samuel Foggie, noted in an interview earlier this year.
Anheuser-Busch established the account for its company-owned local distributorship, which is managed by a minority group member.
Foggie predicted at the time that funds from the account would help provide consumer loans, strengthen businesses and tend to stabilize employment in the District.
"Those funds mean a lot to us," Foggie said yesterday. "We can increase our income with those funds, and anytime we can increase our income we can hire more people."
The account at United National will increase as Anheuser-Busch's business here increases. By the same token, it doesn't take an MBA to figure that, if business declines here, the program won't be expanded.
The account relationship with United National is only a small part of a long-term arrangement that Anheuser-Busch has established with minority banks. United National and Industrial Bank of Washington share in a $5 million line-of-credit program that Anheuser-Busch established last summer. At the same time, the company maintains a $2 million certificate-of-deposit program with several minority banks.
In addition, Smith disclosed, Anheuser-Busch is "looking for other minority banks around the country where we have branches."
Anheuser-Busch already has established a $5 million pool to assist members of minorities who are interested in becoming franchise operators, according to Smith. What's more, he said, the company maintains an $18 million minority suppliers program and a $5 million minority contractors program while having committed $7 million for advertising in minority-owned media.
Anheuser-Busch's sponsorship of a series of concerts by singer Lou Rawls has raised about $10 million for the United Negro College Fund in the past three years.
In all, the company either contributes directly or provides impetus for more than $50 million to the black community, according to Smith.
That apparently hasn't satisfied Jackson, who has persuaded Coca Cola and Philip Morris Inc. (parent of Seven-Up), among others, to negotiate with him or face the consequences of a boycott by blacks.
"Our commitment is broad-based, and we prefer not to channel our resources through one organization," says Smith.
While Anheuser-Busch maintains that banks such as United National will not be affected by a boycott of Budweiser, the PUSH campaign could "end up causing beer drinkers to switch from a company that has a commitment to one that has no commitment," Smith said.