- The Washington Times - Monday, July 17, 2006

The NAACP yesterday urged blacks to “stay out of Target stores” until further notice, in a dispute over the retail giant’s ignoring the group’s diversity survey.

Although that sounds to many like a boycott, Bruce S. Gordon, president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, was reluctant to use that word. He said his announcement intends to warn Target to respond to the NAACP’s questions about its financial and employment practices, which the company has not done for the past two years.

“It certainly sounds like I’m saying boycott, but I use that word very carefully. Target refuses to respond to our survey. Now — whether we want to see picketing and marches outside their doors — we’re not there yet. But we may be if they don’t respond,” Mr. Gordon said.

An official NAACP boycott requires a full, formal vote of the board. In practical terms, it also requires a commitment from group members to mobilize blacks, a tall effort given that blacks have become one of Target’s leading clients since Oprah Winfrey endorsed the stores — which she called “Tar-jay” — on her television show.

The announcement was part of the organization’s annual Economic Reciprocity Initiative, which issues report cards on companies and industries. The program began 10 years ago under the presidency of Kweisi Mfume, who is running for one of Maryland’s U.S. Senate seats. A potential Target boycott was discussed in the first full session of the group’s 97th annual convention, held at the Washington Convention Center.

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid attempted to address the federal legislative agenda earlier in the day, before Mr. Gordon laid out the group’s proposals to address issues such as health care, education and economic disparities between minorities and whites.

“I am here to ensure that Senate Democrats do not take African-American votes for granted,” the Nevada Democrat said.

Mr. Reid, who talked about going to hear Martin Luther King in his youth and about working to desegregate Las Vegas’ hotels and casinos in the early 1960s, said the first order of Senate business would be passing a 25-year extension of the Voting Rights Act, which is expected to be voted out of committee tomorrow.

“Senator Bill Frist, our majority leader, said he doesn’t know if he will be able to get through all of the legislative hurdles and not sure if we could get to it before the recess,” Mr. Reid said.

He also touted Democratic support for an increase in the minimum wage, which his party has made its chief domestic-policy issue for the midterm elections. He said Democrats will block future raises for members of Congress until the minimum wage is increased.

“In the nine years since it has been increased, members of Congress have received a raise of about $30,000,” Mr. Reid said.

President Bush, who has never addressed the NAACP convention as president, has been invited to speak, and the White House is leaving open the possibility of accepting.

“Don’t know yet. We’ll announce when we announce,” said spokesman Tony Snow, when asked yesterday about Mr. Bush’s response.

The president has spent much of the past week at the Group of Eight summit in Russia and on related diplomatic visits in Europe.

Stephen Dinan contributed to this report.

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