|The San Francisco Chronicle and Mired.com are reporting that Reverend Jesse Jackson had a meeting with Apple's iCEO Steve Jobs yesterday. According to the Chronicle:
In whirlwind meetings from dawn to dusk Monday, the civil rights leader talked with dozens of power brokers, including Apple honcho Steve Jobs, San Jose Mayor Ron Gonzales, Chief Executive Robert Knowling of Covac Communications and managers from Hewlett-Packard, Intel, Cisco Systems and others.
During a telephone interview between stops, Jackson said the hour-long meeting with Jobs was "productive and positive." The two "share common interests" and hope to work closely on projects in the near future, Jackson said.
"We're setting the foundation for strong, long-term collaborations with high-tech companies," Jackson said. "We're moving into the substantive stage."
Reverend Jackson is currently taking Silicon Valley high-tech companies to task for not hiring more minorities for their Boards. This campaign included singling out Apple for not having any minority Board members despite the fact that Gareth Chang, an Asian-American, has been on Apple's Board since Mr. Jobs brought him on in 1997.
Reverend Jackson's political organization, the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition, has since invested some US$70,000 buying stock in about 50 high tech companies. Their aim is to have more of a voice in these companies by being shareholders.
Reaction to Reverend Jackson's campaign from the media and industry has been mixed. Many voices have weighed in both for and against Reverend Jackson's message. Some of the only public criticism has come from Cypress Semiconductor's CEO T.J. Rodgers. The following is quoted from the Chronicle:
While a broad spectrum of Silicon Valley met with Jackson, the civil rights leader also has drawn sharp criticism from some quarters.
His most outspoken critic - Chief Executive Officer T.J. Rodgers of Cypress Semiconductor in San Jose - recently caught fire for likening Jackson to "a sea gull that flies around leaving droppings."
Rodgers didn't back off Monday, accusing Jackson of "shaking down companies" for funding on minority projects. Executives who disagree with Jackson's civil rights agenda are branded as racists, Rodgers charged.
"I think this guy needs a punch in the nose. He's offensive," Rodgers said. "What if I walked into the Cuban district of Miami and made a bunch of generalizations about people? That would be pretty arrogant of me."
Like any other sector in America, Rodgers said, Silicon Valley has its share of discrimination, but there is no widespread "economic apartheid" or deeply embedded racism, he said.
At Cypress, 35 percent of the work force is minority, and four of the firm's top nine executive vice presidents are Latino, said Rodgers, who welcomes a debate with Jackson.
Jackson declined to get into a public spat with Rodgers, saying only that Rodgers is "a phantom who doesn't exist, who doesn't represent Silicon Valley."
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