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Edison Pledges Expanded Roles for Minorities : Sweeping Plan Addresses Criticism of Its Hiring and Promotion Policies

Times Staff Writer

Southern California Edison Co. set forth a far-reaching plan Wednesday to correct its poor record of minority hiring, promotion and subcontracting with a program that community groups said was the most comprehensive in the country.

If Edison meets its commitments, contained in an “equal opportunity pledge” signed with a broad coalition of community groups, “it would be the most integrated corporation in the United States by far,” said Robert L. Gnaizda, a lawyer with the public interest group Public Advocates Inc. and a prime mover in the coalition.

The plan is Edison’s answer to criticisms leveled at it by the coalition of community groups, which awarded Edison a grade of “F--" earlier this year for its low percentage of minorities and women in management--the lowest rating given to seven utilities.

The plan also would go beyond an agreement signed last year by Edison and other California utilities to give 20% of the dollar value of all contracts to minority- and women-owned firms under a program put together by Assemblywoman Gwen Moore (D-Los Angeles) and administered by the California Public Utilities Commission.

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Reflects Multi-Ethnic Area

The program will go forward regardless of the status of the proposed merger between Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric, which is now before the PUC for review, said Howard P. Allen, Edison’s chairman and chief executive.

“The goals contained in our pledge are appropriate for a company that provides a public service to 10 million people in Central and Southern California,” Allen said at a news conference in downtown Los Angeles. “The agreement recognizes that we serve this multi-ethnic area, and we’re certainly going to do our best to achieve these goals.”

The plan, worked out in two months of talks between Edison and the coalition and effective Jan. 1, sets several goals to be met with good-faith efforts:

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- Raising the percentage of minorities and women in the firm’s top 500 management jobs to 20% in five years and 30% in 10 years from the current 13%. The goals are not intended as quotas or ratios and Edison said they are subject to adjustment, particularly if the merger goes through.

- Increasing the percentage of minorities and women in the company’s top 100 management positions to 10% in five years and 20% in 10 from the current 6%.

- Increasing the number of minority and women directors on its 16-member board from four to six.

- Awarding 30% of Edison’s estimated $1 billion in business contracts to minority- and women-owned businesses by the year 1998. Edison increased the level of its minority and women contracts to 11.1% in 1988 from 7.34% in 1987, the PUC reported. The company stressed that it would maintain the same standards of price, product, service and performance in awarding the contracts.

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- Creating a seven-member advisory board made up of community group representatives, to meet quarterly and advise Allen directly. Each member will be paid $8,000 a year.

- Increasing the level of donations to groups that serve minorities, women and poor people to $1 million in the year 2000 from the current level of $100,000.

Sensitizing Supervisors

Allen said that 40% of Edison’s new hires in recent years have been minorities or women and that they constitute 46% of the company’s total work force.

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As part of the program, Edison will begin training classes--both to inform potential management candidates what’s expected of them, and to sensitize supervisors and management personnel.

The coalition includes the California Council of Urban Leagues, the League of United Latin American Citizens, the Latino Issues Forum, the Black Business Assn. of Los Angeles, the American G.I. Forum, the Filipino-American Political Assn., the Coalition of Bay Area Women-Owned Business and the World Institute on Disability.


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