08 Sep “Streets to the Suites” Campaign Launches in Cleveland
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 2, 2021
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The Southern Christian Leadership Conference’s National Office Is Launching Its Successful Campaign “From the Streets to the Suites” in Cleveland
The Legendary Civil Rights Organization Seeks to Address Charges of Racism and
Discrimination Levied Against the Global Paint and Coating Giant Sherwin-Williams
ATLANTA – The national office of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), the organization co-founded and first led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., announced today that it is launching its successful initiative “From the Streets to the Suites” in Cleveland after being asked by the local SCLC chapter to help mediate a major dispute between Black contractors and The Sherwin-Williams Co.
The “From the Streets to the Suites” initiative targets corporations that have been accused of racism and discrimination, especially companies that have been lauded as leaders in diversity, equity and inclusion, and have taken public positions that they are committed to ending racial inequities inside and outside the corporation.
Sherwin-Williams, one of the largest paint and coating companies in the world, has been noted by Forbes and other credible media and nonprofit organizations for being a top Fortune corporation that is committed to diversity. Like many Fortune companies that called for racial harmony in the aftermath of the tragic death of George Floyd, a Black Minneapolis man who died shortly after a white police officer planted his knee on Floyd’s throat for nearly nine minutes, Sherwin-Williams issued several statements about its efforts to eradicate injustices. In a 2020 Field Report of the Business Forward Foundation, Sherwin-Williams, ranked 163 on the Fortune 500, said, “We condemn the recent tragedies in the U.S. which illustrate the terrible consequences of racism, discrimination and injustice. We believe the most impactful actions we can take at this time are to continue building on our strong culture of conscious inclusion through our ongoing commitment to attract, develop and engage our diverse workforce.”
But the corporation’s reputation and track record have come under attack as it prepares to build its new corporate headquarters in Cleveland and a research facility in a nearby community. The total costs for the projects exceed $600 million.
Officials of The Black Contractions Group have accused Sherwin-Williams of failing to fulfill promises to select a Black-owned firm as one of the lead companies participating in the massive projects, which is receiving more than $300 million in city, county, state and federal funding. Sherwin-Williams’ failure to include a Black-owned firm, in a city that is nearly 51 percent Black, has prompted community organizations to call on the company to name a Black-owned firm, including the Cleveland chapter of the SCLC, which is headed by Rev. Dr. E. T. Caviness, one of the city’s most influential pastors. Dr. Caviness has requested that the SCLC’s national office lend its support and influence to help achieve fairness in the dispute.
“Sherwin-Williams is a major global company, and we need the support of our national organization, which addresses conflicts across the globe, to help us resolve this dispute,” said Rev. Dr. Caviness.
“The From the Streets to the Suites initiative is just what we need at this time in Cleveland. It has been successful in other cities, like Chicago. Corporate leaders have been encouraged or pressured to be fair and inclusive when it comes to hiring, retaining and promoting employees of color and when it comes to doing business with Black-owned firms.”
Dr. Charles Steele, Jr., president and CEO of the SCLC’s national organization, said he will seek a meeting with Sherwin-Williams’ CEO and Chairman to help foster a fair resolution that is in the best interest of all parties and the City of Cleveland.
“We believe fairness can be achieved surrounding this project, because Sherwin-Williams has been a major stakeholder in Cleveland for nearly 155 years,” Dr. Steele said. “Sherwin-Williams knows that Cleveland cannot grow unless businesses owned by people of all color are at the table and playing a key role in the development of the city.”
While the Black Lives Matters’ demonstrations have focused much of its efforts on ending injustices in the streets, drawing special attention to the police violence against people of color, Dr. Steele said the SCLC’s “From the Streets to the Suites,” campaign is aimed at corporations because they hold the power to close many of the gaps between the races in America, including gaps in employment, income, education, housing, healthcare and public safety.
“We are known for our protests, but many of these disputes can be resolved in the corporate suites before we hit the streets,” Dr. Steele said. “With all that is at stake in Cleveland, we believe this matter will be amicably resolved very soon.”
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ABOUT THE SCLC: Established in 1957, the SCLC, whose first president was Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., is an international organization made up of chapters and affiliates with programs that affect the lives of all Americans: north, south, east, and west. Its sphere of influence and interests have become international in scope because the human rights movement transcends national boundaries. For additional information about the SCLC, visit www.nationalsclc.org. To arrange an interview with Dr. Steele, contact Jerry Thomas at firstname.lastname@example.org, or (312) 414-4016