Telecommunications giant AT&T is set to hold its annual shareholders meeting today at 9 a.m. in The Chattanoogan hotel on Broad Street, and former presidential candidate the Rev. Jesse Jackson says he plans to exercise his rights as a shareholder and attend the meeting.
Mr. Jackson stated Thursday that he will attend the shareholders' meeting in an effort to push for the expansion of broadband in rural areas, and to seek more entrepreneurial and partnership opportunities for minorities.
"Blacks and Latinos overwhelm the public sector workers, but we've been locked out of the private sector," Mr. Jackson said. "We go to those meetings and participate in the resolutions to expand our relationship with the corporations."
Through Mr. Jackson's Rainbow PUSH coalition, he has purchased stock in several large corporations, including AT&T, in an effort to gain access to employment figures and convince companies to expand their business relationship with minority-owned firms, he said.
"We're shareholders, not sharecroppers," he said. "Inclusion leads to growth, and with growth, everybody wins."
Shareholders will consider a number of proposals, four of which are opposed by the board of directors. Shareholders have proposed to adopt cumulative voting, the exclusion of pension income from performance-based pay, a stockholder vote on executive compensation and lowering the share holdings necessary to attend special shareowner meetings.
Twelve board members are up for re-election, and the company has encouraged shareholders to ratify Ernst & Young as its independent auditor.
J.Ed. Marston, vice president of marketing and communications for the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce, said AT&T's decision to hold the meeting in Chattanooga demonstrates that investments in the city's meeting and convention facilities have paid off.
Who can go?
* To go to the AT&T annual shareholder's meeting, you must hold any amount AT&T common stock as of the close of business on March 2, 2010.
* If you bought stock at or before March 2, you are also eligible to vote at the meeting.
* The meeting starts at 9 a.m. today at the Chattanoogan hotel on the Southside.
"I think it certainly is a testament to Chattanooga's higher status in the larger business community to have an international company of this stature hold its shareholders' meeting here," he said. "It's great to have the kind of leaders who sit on the AT&T board in Chattanooga to showcase what
this community has to offer."
Bob Doak, president and CEO of the Chattanooga Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, agreed that Chattanooga had much to offer its visitors.
"This will be helpful in our recruitment efforts going forward," he said. "A global company like AT&T has high standards, and I'm glad that we as a community were able to meet those high standards."
Average attendance at the shareholders meetings is around 250, according to AT&T spokesman Dru Cessac.
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