The Rev. Jesse Jackson said Wednesday that he is displeased with the automaker Toyota, saying the company has not, in his estimation, made enough progress on improving its image and relationship with minorities to stave off a boycott he has threatened to promote through his Rainbow/PUSH Coalition.
Speaking in Washington, where he was to attend a conference of the National Urban League, Jackson said "The facts have not changed ... Toyota has 1,400 dealerships, and 55 are black- or brown-owned ... Unless some progress is made, we will have to begin some sanctions."
Jackson originally called for a boycott after Toyota released an advertisement depicting the wide smile of a black person with a gold tooth containing a carving of a tiny Toyota RAV4 sport utility vehicle. The ad was placed on postcards and given away at trendy urban clubs, coffeehouses and restaurants.
Jackson called it part of a "persistent problem of racial and cultural insensitivity."
Jackson's demands include: more emphasis on the black and minority community; the creation of a three- to five-year plan on diversity and inclusion (including timetables); ensuring that minorities will be allocated a sizable chunk of the company’s ad dollars; and an infrastructure change to "empower minority employees."
He also demanded that Toyota end its "30-year monopolistic dynasty" with its ad agency, Saatchi & Saatchi.
The sanctions could be announced during the Aug. 8-12 convention of Mr. Jackson's Rainbow/PUSH Coalition in Chicago.
A Toyota spokesman responded that the company has "been doing our absolute best to avoid any boycott." The spokesman added that "We really feel that our diversity programs that we have in place make a real difference and believe that a boycott is not necessary."
Toyota says it has been a good-faith partner in reaching out to minority candidates for positions in each of its dealerships country-wide, with the number of minority owners comparable to Ford, General Motors and Daimler-Chrysler.
The company has apologized for the ad and explained that it "was intended to communicate RAV4’s styling to a youthful hip, audience through tooth art, an edgy style similar to body jewelry and tattoos, but was not directed to any ethnic groups."
Jackson has used his political muscle in the past to put pressure on corporations to support minority groups. He leaned on AOL-Time Warner to establish massive investment funds for minority-owned businesses and Freddie Mac to purchase $1 million in mortgage loans for minorities.
"Jackson’s hard-nosed tactics earn him notoriety," said Patrick Reilly of the Washington-based Capital Research Center, a group that examines corporate and charitable donations.
Last year, these tactics resulted in a promise from Raytheon Company, an electronics manufacturer, to hire several minority-owned firms to manage its pension funds.
As late as Tuesday, Toyota officials had been optimistic that they would be able to avoid a boycott.
"We have many programs in place and we’re trying to talk to the reverend about those things," said the Toyota spokesman, who added that the company had increased minority employees by 37 percent over the last three years. "These are the things we want him to know about."