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Corporate War on the People
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Corporate War on the People
Over four million people in central Africa have died in a war over coltan. This is a heat-resistant mineral used in cell phones, laptops and other high-tech electronics. It is found in three-billion-year-old soils like those in the Rift Valley in Africa. 80% of the world’s coltan comes from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
The war began in 1998. Congolese rebel forces, backed by Rwanda and Uganda, seized the eastern DRC. They moved into strategic mining areas, attacking villages along the way. The Rwandan Army was soon making $20 million a month from coltan mining. Fighting continues despite peace treaties signed in Summer 2002.
The fighting has displaced two million farmers from their homes. These men, women and children are forced into mining, fighting and prostitution. They are threatened with torture, rape and murder if they refuse. Starvation and disease have killed hundreds of thousands.
Coltan costs nearly $300 a pound. All of it is bought by only three companies—Cabot Inc. of the US, Germany’s HC Starc and China’s Nignexia. These companies turn coltan into tantalum. They sell the tantalum to Nokia, Motorola, Compac, Sony and other companies for use in cell phones and other products.
Sam Bodman was the former CEO of Cabot. Under his leadership from 1987-2000. Cabot was one of the US’s largest polluters. They emitted 60,000 tons of airborne toxic emissions a year. In Dec. 2004, President Bush appointed Bodman Secretary of Energy.
The main coltan mining area in the Congo contains the Kahuzi Biega National Park (KBNP), It is the home of the critically endangered Eastern Lowland Gorilla. Deforestation from coltan mining has destroyed much of the gorilla’s habitat. Due to poverty caused by displacement of the human population, locals are killing gorillas. They sell them as “bush meat” to miners and rebel armies that control the area. In 1991 there were about 8,000 Eastern Lowland Gorillas in KBNP. By 2000 there were less than 1,000. The Eastern Lowland Gorillas are being driven to extinction by war, greed and high technology.
Info from Nerve
A Solution for Corporate Domination
According to a report called Executive Excess 2006, top executives at major US corporations took home 411 times more than average workers. In 1994, at the birth of the living wage movement, CEO pay outpaced pay for average workers by only 142 times.
Between 1993 and 2003, the top five executives at America’s 1500 biggest companies more than doubled their share of corporate earnings. They took home $290 billion. To hit those jackpots, executives downsized workers, outsourced jobs, gutted pensions and trimmed benefits. This has left American workers poorer and US companies less competitive.
Nearly every major corporation in the US is taking in substantial revenue from government contracts, subsidies, tax breaks or grants. The living wage movement is organizing to place strings on these contracts and subsidies. No tax dollars to companies that pay poverty wages!
Rep. Martin Sabo from Minnesota has proposed legislation that would deny corporations tax deductions on any executive compensation that runs over 25 times what a company’s lowest-paid workers receive. Under current law, the more corporations lavish on their executives in “incentives,” the more they can deduct off their corporate income taxes.
Sabo’s Income Equity Act could be extended to insist that no government contracts go to companies that pay their top executives over 25 times that jurisdiction’s living wage. This would give top executives a powerful incentive to advocate for a higher living wage.
As a nation, we already deny tax dollars to companies that discriminate against women and people of color. Our tax dollars must not subsidize corporate practices that widen racial and gender inequality. So why should we let our tax dollars widen economic inequality?
Info from Street Spirit
China Unionizes All 62 of its Wal-Marts
The All-China Federation of Trade Unions (ACFTU), the largest labor organization in the world, has succeeded in setting up grassroots unions in all of China’s 62 Wal-Marts.
From Feb. to May of 2006, ACFTU visited Wal-Mart’s Shezhen headquarters several times. They proposed that trade unions be formed at all Wal-mart stores, in accordance with China’s Trade Union Law. Union officials assembled at areas near Wal-Mart stores to carry out an education campaign. When staff got off work, organizers gave them union literature and mobilized them to join the union. They pledged to provide protection to those who joined. This reduced workers’ fear of retaliation.
Ke Yunlong and his fellow workers in Wal-Mart’s Jinjiang store went to the local trade union to inquire about the organizing process. They applied to form a grassroots union. On July 29 these workers declared the founding of a union at the Jinjiang store. Within a week, five more unions were formed.
On Aug. 16, ACFTU officials met with Wal-Mart executives. They signed a five-point memorandum. It specified that preparatory committees would be set up to form trade-union branches at the superstores. Each preparatory committee would be composed of union officials, employees and no more than 20% management. ACFTU organizers were now allowed to conduct training sessions with Wal-Mart employees regarding Chinese labor law and to recruit new members.
After the memorandum was signed, unions sprang up at Wal-Marts across China at he rate of one a day. By Sept. 30 there were unions in all 62 Wal-Marts in China.
The achievement at Wal-Mart is due to the superior position enjoyed by Chinese trade unions. The Communist Party of China (CPC) is the party of the working class, the leading class of the state. The CPC and the government give full support to trade unions in carrying out their work independently in accordance with the Trade Union Law and the Constitution of the Chinese Trade Unions.
Info from Political Affairs
Texas Leads the Nation in Producing Greenhouse Gases
The US is the world’s leading contributor to global warming. But just one state, Texas, ranks seventh in the production of greenhouse gases—723.2 million tons a year. This is more than many whole countries including Canada, United Kingdom and South Korea.
The Texas corporations that are undermining the global environment and ruining the health of millions include strip mine owners, Texas Utilities Mining, electric power corporations like TXU and Houston Lighting and Power, trucking and railroad owners, cement manufacturers, the Aluminum Corporation of America and others.
A report called the Carbon Disclosure Project showed that over 80% of companies polled provided data showing that they recognized the hazards. But fewer than half said they were working to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases that cause global warming.
Info from The People
PO Box 218, Mountain View, CA 94042
Ford Motor Company Sued for Sexual Harassment
Since Aug. 1995, Daniel Bennet, a superintendent at Ford’s Wixom Assembly Plant, has exposed his penis to, assaulted, stalked, forcibly kissed, offered money for sex, and otherwise harassed six women at the plant. Ford never disciplined Bennet and never even investigated the women’s charges.
Justine Maldonado and three of the other women victimized by Bennet, file lawsuits against Ford, spoke to the media and organized pickets at the plant and Ford headquarters. Each time the trial court dismissed the charges. One judge said Justine and her attorneys had spoken to the media too much. There was no gag order restricting Justine and the lawyers. Ford asked for one and the judge refuse. But he still dismissed the case because of public statements she and others made. This decision was reversed by the Court of Appeals. The Michigan Supreme Court then threw out the ruling of the appellate court. On Oct. 19 the US Supreme Court was asked to consider the case. It will be several months before the US Supreme Court will decide whether it will hear the case or not.
PO Box 164, Canton SD 570133
Two Strikes, Corporations Are Out
In the June 6 election, a new law called Measure T passed with 55% of the vote in Humboldt County, CA. It forbids a corporation from donating to local campaigns if it is not based in the county—or if even one employee or shareholder lives outside the county. Nonprofit organizations can donate if all board members live in the county. Labor unions must have one local member to contribute.
The 14th Amendment designed to protect freed slaves, has mainly been used to protect corporations. The new law challenges the notion that corporations are “persons” under the law, and that corporate “free speech,” in the form of campaign donations, is protected.
The new law is needed because there were two cases in which out-of-town corporations each donated over $200,000 to shift local politics. In 1999 Wal-Mart tried to change zoning laws to put a Wal-Mart on the Eureka waterfront. In 2004 Texas-based Maxxam, Inc. attempted to recall the local district attorney for trying to enforce environmental regulations against the company. Both corporate efforts failed.
Info from Yes!
Wal-Mart Cuts Wages!
In October Wal-Mart announced plans to cap wages and shift more positions from full to part time. They are aiming for a 40% part time workforce. This means not only less income, but the possible loss of benefits like health coverage.
The company claims the changes are aimed at serving its customers better! They reported a monthly sales decline for November, something that hasn’t happened since 1996.
Labor Rights in China
The Chinese government has proposed labor law reforms that would “crack down on sweatshops and protect workers’ rights by giving labor unions real power for the first time”. The American Chamber of Commerce, which represents such companies as Dell, Ford, Microsoft and Nike, is lobbying the Chinese government to abandon the proposed reforms.
Info from Dollars & Sense
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