engage magazine issue 005 \\\'07 - Page 46

46 ECONOMIC LEVERAGE Reverend Jesse Jackson Unlike the UK, supplier diversity has been well established in the US for over 35 years, implemented through affirmative action. Was it really possible to grow small and medium sized BAME enterprises in the UK without taking such steps? “Affirmative action came out of the request for equal employment opportunities and contract compliance as to the law. Therefore any company that would not comply would lose a government contract - that was government leverage. But look at your private sector. Look at the banks that do business where you live, the fast food franchises and other companies – you can leverage your buying pound on those companies. That’s what Martin Luther King did with Rosa Parks in Montgomery in 1955 and the sanctions in South Africa to free Nelson Mandela. You must believe you have that power, because you do have it – you are a giant and you must not have a grasshopper complex. Every major company in this country including credit card companies need your investment – if you withdraw from them, they will feel the impact” replied Jesse. “However, you do need both. You need legislation. The government must have a policy of employment on contract workers and your fair share of police, firemen, teachers, government workers and so on. Therefore the government must enforce inclusion.” Jesse added. London has already taken its first steps on this path. In January 2007 the Greater London Authority (GLA) launched its sustainable procurement policy intimating that public sector contracts will only be awarded to those businesses that can demonstrate diversity in their supply chain. The use of economic leverage matters and works. Recognise that ethnic minorities are the mark-up profit of every corporation in this country. 2007 marks the 200th anniversary of the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade and a plethora of events and exhibitions have been organised to acknowledge the economic contribution of black and ethnic minority people who were central to the industrial revolution, helped rebuild the nation after two world wars and who are currently significant players in the economy through black businesses. engage was anxious to learn whether the Reverend, who has been visiting the UK for over thirty years, had seen any change in British society’s attitude to race - had there really been any progress on race equality? “I say progress, yes, to the extent that people like Bernie Grant, Paul Boateng and Diane Abbot in those early days were just coming into political prominence. In the USA we were doing the same. We just got the right to vote in 1965 so its kind of evolution, but now we have more of everything. So this is a new day. Beyond freedom there is equality and that is why equanomics, equal-economics, takes on new dimensions because freedom is the absence of slavery but equality is the presence of parity and now we fight parity, we fight for our share. Gloria Wyse Editor Engage and Reverend Jesse Jackson talk economics....... engage | uk ISSUE FIVE 2007