Knight, Boyd back in district court – Daily Southerner

TARBORO — An Edgecombe County District Court Judge dismissed a no-contact order violation filed by the interim Princeville town manager against Princeville Commissioner Gwendolyn Knight Monday in Edgecombe County District Court. (More)

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Former Mary Frances Center chosen as new Prep School location – Daily Southerner

TARBORO — The decision has been made.

John Westberg, executive director of North East Carolina Prep, made it official Wednesday and said the former Mary Frances Center had been chosen to be the location of Edgecombe County’s first charter school. (More)

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Manley to conduct assessment of Elizabeth City police force – Rocky Mount Telegram

Former Rocky Mount Police Chief John Manley Jr. has been tapped to take charge of Elizabeth City’s police department once current chief Charles Crudup retires later this month. (More)

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Effort to save rural post offices won’t help local processing center – Rocky Mount Telegram

A proposal to close the U.S. Postal Service’s mail processing facility on George Street remains on the table despite a post office decision to keep rural post offices open.

The proposal to close the George Street processing center is not affected by the Postal Service’s latest decision to back off a plan to close 3,700 retail postal offices in rural locations. (More)


A petition is circulating across America asking that the country’s largest restaurant company treat and pay its African-American employees “equally.”  The petition comes as a result of the suit Restaurant Opportunities Center United (ROC) has filed against Darden Restaurants claiming that the company systemically favors White workers over minorities.

The suit alleges that minority employees at The Capital Grille job sites in New York, Chicago and Washington, D.C. “are shunted away from front-of-the-house jobs like waiters and hosts toward lower-paying kitchen jobs and that Darden discriminates against Blacks “by not offering a clear path” from their low fare restaurants [Red Lobster and Olive Garden] to their high-brow The Capital Grille.

On the other hand, a Darden representative described the allegations as "baseless."  The irony of the situation is that the chief cook and bottle washer at Darden is Clarence Otis Jr., an African American. Otis is the chairman of the board and chief executive officer (CEO) of the company. The Darden family of restaurants features recognizable and successful full-service brands such as: Red Lobster, Olive Garden, LongHorn Steakhouse and The Capital Grille.  Darden owns and/or operates more than 1,900 restaurants that employ 180,000 people and serve more than 400 million meals a year.

The ROC union campaign is asking the public to “join us in calling on Darden to … institute a promotions policy that allows Black workers to compete for jobs as servers, bartenders and chefs at the company’s fine-dining facilities.” The nationwide campaign asks that “Black workers be able to advance to livable wages” at Darden’s Capital Grille sites and not be relegated to the lowest-wage work.  The litigants contend that “Black workers in the restaurant industry are routinely relegated to fast food outlets” while Whites more readily climb the ranks to earn upwards of $50,000 a year.  They say that The Capital Grille is “the only place within the company where workers can earn a living wage.”  They want Darden to provide “clear pipelines … to higher-paid work at Capital Grille restaurants.

Darden acquired The Capital Grille chain from Rare Hospitality in 2007.  The Capital Grille is considered the “Big Leagues” of Darden restaurants and operates upscale steakhouse locations in 20 states and the District of Columbia. The union’s suit  wants Blacks to be put on the path that would lead more of them to Capital Grille locations; strategic moves that would make their career paths and pay equitable with Whites.

“Darden Restaurants is very proud of the work environment that it creates for employees,” said spokesperson Rich Jeffers.  The company is an industry leader.  Fortune Magazine ranks Darden among its “Top 100 Places to Work.” Darden has a well-established history of promoting minority workers to managerial positions, getting high marks for a diverse workforce.

Otis is a Black trailblazer. How he handles this situation may make him a business icon. He is a “hired gun” that’s been with Darden for 17 years. In his capacity for the past seven years, as CEO, he’s guided the company to a $400 million annual net income. Otis came to Darden in its spin-off from General Mills. His only previous restaurant experience had been in college when he waited tables during summer breaks. Now, the 56-year-old executive and his wife have one of the largest collections of African art in the U.S.

The group’s allegation that "Black workers are routinely discriminated against throughout the restaurant industry” merits the public’s attention and concern.  Beyond Darden, restaurants account for one of every 12 private sector jobs and are the nation’s second-largest private sector employer.  The industry has a workforce of nearly 13 million and is one of the country’s strongest job creators. National Restaurant Association President Dawn Sweeny says “The industry provides millions with rewarding career and employment opportunities … and whether in the kitchen or the corporate office, restaurants offer a variety of career paths.”

A sign of the times, the Darden discrimination case bears further watching.  

(William Reed is Publisher of Who’s Who in Black Corporate America and available for speaking/seminar projects via the Bailey

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William Reed Columnist