by Christian Morrow
Courier Staff Writer
Back when steel ruled the local economy and Pittsburgh boast multiple corporate headquarters, the NAACP Pittsburgh Unit could always count on corporate support for its single largest fundraiser, the annual Human Rights Dinner.
Now, however, with shale gas development becoming a dominant industry in the region, local NAACP President Constance Parker said the industry is not participating at the level she expected. Four firms, Shell, Range Resources, Chevron and Consol, which won the contract to drill on Allegheny County-owned land, either turned her down flat, or didn’t respond at all.
While having a funding solicitation turned down is not an unheard of experience, with the Black unemployment rate in the city more than doubling the White rate, Parker said these firms should be doing far more outreach, supporting the oldest civil rights organization in the country should be automatic.
“I was never so shocked in my life, and this is something that needs to be addressed,” said Parker. “These are billion-dollar companies, and should be investing in workforce development. They’re going to need local workers as their operations continue, it could be a win-win.”
Of the companies mentioned, only Consol’s Value Chain General Manager George Smith offered any explanation for his firm’s lack of sponsorship this year. In his email exchange with attorney and branch Political Affairs Chair Cheryl McAbee he first noted he no longer oversees disadvantaged business development, but that the company had hired a new General Manager of Minority Supplier Development, Brian Hoffman
“He in turn presented (the sponsorship proposal) to some of our other groups, unfortunately we are going to have to pass on this particular opportunity,” Smith wrote. “We have a number of supplier development projects that we are committed to or that we’re trying to expand with the budget dollars allocated for this year and although we recognize the importance of this cause we will regretfully have to decline.”
When McAbee following up to see if they would, at least, buy an ad in the program, she received no response. But the explanation was more than she received from either Range Resources contact Matt Pitzarella or Shell Diversity Outreach Specialist Brian Hall. Neither responded at all.
Chevron Policy, Government and Public Affairs Manager simply said the firm declined to be a sponsor.
“Thank you for your invitation to sponsor the NAACP Human Rights Dinner. After discussing this opportunity with my colleagues internally, we have decided not to participate as a sponsor. Thank you again for your offer,” he wrote.
And when asked to purchase an ad, he again wrote, “We respectfully decline to participate.”
Parker again said she was stunned.
“You’re coming in here, taking these resources and leaving us out,” she said. “We can’t afford to be silent.”
Parker was scheduled to appear on Chris Moore’s radio program to discuss the issue further.
Neither Oliver nor Hall returned calls for comment by Courier Digital Daily deadline. More in the April 17 print edition.