[Excerpt] As part of the emphasis on proactive prevention in the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s (EEOC’s) Five Point Plan, this report seeks to aid retailers and similar employers in taking full advantage of America’s labor markets. Our nation’s retailers fulfill an important role in our economy and according to the EEOC’s EEO-1 reports in 2002, employ nearly 15 percent of all private sector employees. In this second in a series of reports on this important industry, this report examines a unique sector of retailing: distribution centers. In contrast to traditional warehouses, a modern distribution center is essentially an operations center, managing the flow of information and goods between retailers and suppliers through the use of standardized bar codes, high-speed conveyors, laser scanners, and computerized databases.
These distribution centers represent not only a significant change in the way retail firms operate, but unlike store fronts they are often not very visible to the general public. These centers are commonly located away from central cities, either outside metropolitan areas altogether or on the edge of such areas. In searching for inexpensive land, favorable leases and low tax rates, retailers can easily lose sight of the value of a diverse workforce. This report attempts to alert retailers and others to the potential impact that distribution center location can have on the ability to develop and maintain a multi-cultural workforce. Readers, especially retailers, are encouraged to share their "best practices" in making location decisions for distribution centers in a manner that encourages a diverse work force.