DETROIT (WXYZ) - Civil rights leader Reverend Jesse Jackson says Detroit's Big 3 are ahead of their foreign counterparts when it comes to advancing minorities in the workplace.
Jackson was in town as part of an auto summit happening October 2-3, 2013 in the Motor City. He says GM is a good example of a global company hiring minorities at the corporate and dealership level.
"We have an opportunity now that we have a lot more jobs and investment back into the economy," says GM North American president Mark Reuss.
The recession and subsequent bailout of the auto industry took a toll on minority car dealers: 40 percent of black-owned dealers closed - leaving only around a thousand minority dealers out of 18,000 total.
GM is hoping to help with a program called "Motors Holding" that includes seed money for minorities interested in owning a GM dealership.
"So it's not a handout but a hand up to get established financially and we use that as an advantage for General Motors' dealers and the minority piece of that and that's really aimed at the minority first time dealer," says Reuss.
Jackson commends the Big 3, but is pointing his finger at Chrysler saying when the Pentastar announced its IPO he was disappointed more minorities weren't involved with the underwriting.
"We're qualified to be their consumer base, let's be a part of their business base," says Jackson.
Jackson's Rainbow Push Coalition is the driving force behind Detroit's annual Global Auto Summit, now in its 14th year, but for the first time in a city under the cloud of bankruptcy and under the direction of an emergency manager. Jackson thinks that is unjust.
"Imagine if, around the country, if you didn't like a given political group, you suspended their democracy it would be unacceptable," he says.
Jackson suggests a new urban policy to deal with cities facing bankruptcy.
In addition to Detroit's Big 3 Jackson says Toyota also does a good job of promoting minorities.