published Thursday, March 31st, 2011

NAACP wants data on minority hiring

NAACP’s letter to the county
NAACP’s letter to the county

The Chattanooga-Hamilton County NAACP is asking the county and city for information on the number of blacks hired by companies that have received tax breaks.

NAACP President Valoria Armstrong wrote a letter to Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger and sent copies to Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield, City Council Chairman Manny Rico, County Commission Chairman Larry Henry and Gloria Jean Sweet-Love, president of the Tennessee National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

The letter requests information under the Tennessee Open Records Act.

“Many people feel strongly that there is widespread employment discrimination in our area and if allowed to continue will further weaken our community,” Armstrong wrote.

The county and city use tax breaks known as payment-in-lieu-of-taxes agreements to lure businesses such as Volkswagen.

Hamilton County Attorney Rheubin Taylor said he forwarded the request to the Urban League of Greater Chattanooga, which he said is under contract to provide the information to the county. Urban League officials could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

Henry said he’s seen the letter but isn’t sure if the county can provide the information the NAACP is looking for.

“I’ve been out to Volks-wagen quite a bit,” Henry said. “They’ve got a fair share of minorities working out there. I don’t think it’s really an issue we should be concerned about.”

Asked for comment, Volkswagen spokesman Scott Wilson sent a statement Wednesday night:

“While Volkswagen Chattanooga is still in the process of hiring, minorities make up 24 percent of our current production work force. We are proud that our hiring practices ensure fairness and are pleased that our work force reflects the community in which we live and work.”

Commissioner Greg Beck said he’d heard the NAACP might be requesting information, but said his current focus is fighting crime.

He added that the issue might be worth investigating.

Coppinger said companies are encouraged to hire minorities, but added, “at the end of the day, they have the right to hire the people they’re going to hire.”

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