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13,000 U.S. Texaco Dealers Brace For Boycott After Alleged Racism

By Chris Kraul
Los Angeles Times

More than 13,000 Texaco dealers nationwide are bracing for a civil-rights boycott amid scattered signs that their gasoline sales have already suffered in response to disclosures of alleged racism in Texaco's corporate offices.

The boycott, called by the Rev. Jesse Jackson to pressure Texaco for a quick settlement of a discrimination lawsuit and concrete steps to promote minorities, is to take effect Saturday, although all parties involved - from dealers, to Wall Street to civil rights leaders - were hoping a settlement would stave off the action.

In New York, company executives and lawyers representing more than 1,000 minority employees attempted to negotiate a settlement of a discrimination lawsuit - an agreement that would head off the boycott.

Dealers said the pickets to be thrown up around their pumps would hurt them and their families more than they will hurt Texaco Inc.

"We have had a gallonage loss that has been dropping steadily since last weekend," said Joe Balistrieri, owner of a San Diego Texaco station that does half its business with black customers. "When you are working on just a small margin and your overhead doesn't change, that cuts a deep hole."

The owner of several Texaco stations in Los Angeles, who asked not be named, said sales are already down 5 percent to 8 percent since the disclosure of apparently racist tape recordings of a meeting of top Texaco executives.

Only 1,000 of the 14,000 Texaco stations nationwide are owned by the company, said Tom West, executive vice president of National Association of Texaco Wholesalers in Springfield, Va. Nearly all the rest are owned by independent businessmen and women.

Wall Street seemed to agree that a boycott would not cause much damage to Texaco. Some analysts said the company, which gets less than 20 percent of its worldwide earnings from U.S. gasoline retailing, was more at risk from a hasty, multimillion settlement of the class action suits than from the boycott.

Texaco stock continued to recover from last week's declines, closing up Thursday at 98 a share on the New York Stock Exchange.

Pressure mounted on Texaco from another front Thursday as the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People threatened a stock divestiture campaign unless the oil company came up with a plan to increase opportunities fro minority employees.

NAACP President Kweisi Mfume outlined eight demands, including hiring and promoting more blacks and developing a plan to increase tolerance in the workplace "that goes beyond traditional diversity training."

Mfume said a divestiture campaign would be directed at individual investment portfolios and mutual funds.