More than half (50 percent) of the chamber members of the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (USHCC) picketed and protested the exclusionary and disenfranchising practices of the USHCC Board of Directors and administration at the 23rd Annual USHCC Convention and Business Expo on Saturday, October 19, 2003, at the front entrance of the West Hall of the Los Angeles Convention Center.
Over 75 local and state Hispanic chambers of commerce throughout the United States – including California, Texas, Florida, New Mexico, Georgia, New Jersey, Kansas, Missouri and New York – were represented at a press conference held on October 19th prior to the USHCC Annual Meeting and Board of Directors elections.
Under the leadership of Chairman Elizabeth Lisboa Farrow and President/CEO George Herrera, the USHCC disqualified the host chamber of the 23rd national convention, the Latin business Association of Los Angeles, Calif. – a member of the California Hispanic Chambers of Commerce – denying the host chamber's participation, representation, voting privileges and benefits at the national convention.
A casualty of the USHCC's exclusionary practices was USHCC Board of Director David Lizarraga's bid for re-election to the USHCC Board of Directors because his sponsoring chamber, the LBA, was disqualified. Despite a valiant appeal by the LBA to the USHCC Board of Directors to reconsider their decision to disqualify the LBA, the appeal fell on deaf ears.
Many USHCC insiders believe that the USHCC's Board of Directors' true motivation for disqualifying the host chamber is attributed to retaliation for Lizarraga's extraordinary leadership to reform the USHCC's Board last year to replace the vacancy created by Hector Barreto, JR's appointment by President George W. Bush as Administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration.
Similarly, the Texas Association of Mexican American Chambers of Commerce Chairman, Ricardo E. Calderon, was arbitrarily disqualified as a candidate for the USHCC Region 3 Board of Directors on a frivolous premise that he was not a "member" of his own statewide association, despite Calderon's seven years of service on the TAMACC Board of Directors.
TAMACC's appeal of their Chairman's disqualification to the USHCC's Board of Directors was never granted nor heard by Chairman Lisboa. TAMACC has 33 Hispanic chambers in Texas with over 15, 000 statewide members. USHCC insiders indicated that Calderon's disqualification was a deliberate and calculated retaliation for TAMACC's leadership in questioning the appropriateness of the USHCC's decision to publish a for-profit national business magazine in direct competition against many USHCC member publications that have positively promoted the USHCC the past 23 years. TAMACC passed a resolution opposing such business venture last year stating that the USHCC should be an advocate for Hispanic businesses instead of a competitor.
Calderon's disqualification cleared the path for newly elected USHCC Chairman J.R. Gonzales to run unopposed in his bid for re-election to the USHCC Region 3 Board of Director seat.
It is quite obvious that the USHCC Board of Directors and administration under Lisboa and Herrera does not welcome constructive criticism and leadership. Any creative and imaginative dissent within the USHCC is ostracized and frowned upon with exclusionary practices.
In addition to the disqualification of candidates Lizarraga, Calderon and the host chamber (LBA), the wrath of disqualification fell on many USHCC chamber members from the California Hispanic Chambers of Commerce, TAMACC, the Albuquerque Hispano Chamber, Kansas City Hispanic Chamber, San Diego Hispanic Chamber, Florida State Hispanic Chamber, Corpus Christi Hispanic Chamber, McAllen Hispanic Chamber, Midland Hispanic Chamber and many others.
The USHCC's exclusionary practices effectively deny these Hispanic chambers the benefits and privileges as USHCC member chambers. In essence, the USHCC actions are a breach of contract of their members' rights and benefits, disenfranchising the very same people it purports to represent.
The biggest losers of these USHCC exclusionary practices are the corporate partners of the USHCC, who spend millions of dollars to fund programs to reach Hispanic businesses and consumers. These questionable practices are contrary to the express mission and purpose of the USHCC, that is, to advocate and represent the Hispanic business community throughout the United States.
Among the USHCC corporate partners are Aetna, Inc., AOL Time Warner, AT&T, Bank One, Bank of America, U.S. Army, Bell South, Bloomberg, BMW North America, Ford Motor Company, General Motors Corporation, IBM, Citigroup, Edward Jones, Exxon Mobil, Fed Ex, Hilton Hotels, Merrill Lynch, Microsoft, New York Life Insurance, Morgan Stanley, Pepsico, Southwestern Bell Communication, Sears, Shell Oil, Sprint, Coca-Cola, Walt Disney World, Wells Fargo, Verizon Communications and others.
Although the future is bright for Hispanic entrepreneurs in the United States, the exclusionary and disenfranchising political practices of the USHCC seriously questions the organization's leadership and ability to genuinely represent the Hispanic business community as well as much to be desired.
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