Pages tagged "corporations"

Be a Part of the Biggest Climate March in History

ClimatePeoplesMarch_v2.pngOn September 21, New York City will see the biggest climate march in history. 

Be a part of it! 

You know the deadly effects of climate change: more storms like Superstorm Sandy in New York, and Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines. More droughts like the one right now in California, and fires like the ones that have been engulfing the Western U.S. every summer. Farmland drying up and sea levels rising, which means hunger and displacement for many of the world’s poorest people. 

Now more than ever, we need to show decision-makers that climate change is a planetary emergency, and that we can't wait any longer for serious action to stop climate chaos. That's why next month, when President Obama and other world leaders gather for a crucial climate summit at the United Nations, the global climate movement will greet them with the largest climate march in history. 

Are you in? 

Rainforest Action Network will be there for this historic event for the global climate movement. We'll also be there to send an important message: to stabilize the climate, we have to challenge corporate power. We have to challenge PepsiCo to stop sourcing Conflict Palm Oil that’s destroying the rainforests that help to regulate our climate. We have to challenge TransCanada: they won’t build the Keystone XL pipeline on our watch. 

You know that winning the fight against global warming means challenging corporations that put profit before people and the planet. And we need you to bring that message to the streets of New York. 

Join us!

This summit kicks off truly crucial series of meetings, with a real chance for binding international emissions targets by the end of 2015. We can’t afford business as usual -- and we know that’s exactly what our elected officials will deliver unless we show them we mean business. Let’s seize our chance to shape history. 

Come be a part of it.

P.S. On September 21, the action goes well beyond New York City, with mobilizations across the country and around the world. Can’t make it to New York? Be part of an event near you.

35,000 People Call For Massey's Corporate Charter to be Revoked

Last Friday, 35,000 signatures were delivered to the office of Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden by West Virginia residents who have directly experienced Massey’s disregard for worker safety, community health, and the environment. The petition called for General Biden to revoke Massey's Coporate Charter. The delegation included West Virginia community members Lorelei Scarbro and Betty Harrah. No MasseyBetty is the sister of Steven Harrah, one of the 29 coal miners killed in the Upper Big Branch mine disaster on April 5, 2010. Lorelei is the granddaughter, daughter, and widow of coal miners, and has family who currently work at the Upper Big Branch mine. Scarbro has been an advocate for the Coal River Mountain project, a campaign to stop mountaintop removal mining on Coal River mountain and instead install a 328-megawatt wind farm on its ridges. Lorelei and Betty were joined by representatives from a coalition of public interest groups who are leading the call for Massey's petition to be revoked, including RAN, Free Speech for People, Appalachian Voices and CREDO. Delivering the Massey Petition"Having a corporate charter is a privilege, not a right," says Jeff Clements, Free Speech for People's general counsel. "Delaware, as with other states, reserves the right to revoke or forfeit state corporate charters when they are abused or misused, as in cases of repeated unlawful conduct. Massey Energy has repeatedly demonstrated that it should not be entrusted with a corporation charter." General Biden's office received the petition and responded that he will review the matter. You can listen to the accompanying press conference here, including comments from Lorelei, Betty and Robert F.Kennedy Junior.

Fighting Back Against the New Gilded Age

[caption id="attachment_12488" align="alignleft" width="212" caption="via"][/caption] In the 1870’s and 1880’s, the United States saw a period of rapid economic and industrial development that created a powerful new wealthy class and elevated them to a social strata high above the working classes and poor. Mark Twain called it a “Gilded Age.” As a former college history instructor, I often wonder if history really does repeat itself. The parallels between what's going on in our country right now and what happened 130 years ago are very striking. In both eras, what we witnessed was nothing less than a right-wing corporate power grab. In America's 19th-century Gilded Age, we saw these socio-economic conditions arise:
  • The corporation became the dominant form of business organization.
  • Management revolutions transformed business operations with machine-like efficiency.
  • There was zero regulation of labor conditions or the environment.
  • Philosophies of “Social Darwinism” and “survival of the fittest” reigned supreme in America’s political economy.
  • Politicians of both parties were in the pockets of the super-wealthy.
  • The super-wealthy waged war on their resistant workers with armies of armed private security, police and even federal troops.
Fast forward a century and a half , and the U.S. has seen waves of reform and regulation that put the super-wealthy somewhat in check. The "social safety net" was established, creating America’s middle class and allowing us to fight two world wars and a cold war as well as to spread our warmongering capitalist seed around the world. If you read Howard Zinn, the parallels to the Gilded Age and what’s happening now are striking. We’re seeing an unprecedented right-wing assault on government regulation and economic justice/direct service organizations that have traditionally held the super-rich at bay. Sponsored by the financial plantation owners on Wall Street and the Fossil-Fuel-Industrial-Complex, the goal of this right-wing assault is to roll back historic gains made by labor, poor peoples and environmental movements over the past 90 years. [caption id="attachment_12491" align="alignleft" width="242" caption="via"][/caption] They want to return us to the aforementioned conditions, except they want to make it a Gilded Age ON STEROIDS. Another big piece of their plan is to ensure that the transformation of the global citizen into a Huxlian, non-voting consumer of cheap plastic goods, unfair trade coffee, and ATM fees and services is complete. Progressive and radical social movements are edging ever closer to that cliff. Leadership is often too bureaucratic, indecisive and weak. The right wing and corporations have taken advantage of it and have successfully waged war on us. Our backs are against the wall. But with the inspiration of people-powered revolutions around the world, I’m getting some hope (not the flashy faux-Obama kind of hope either) and excitement that we at least won’t go down without a fight. Economic justice and labor advocates are organizing direct action campaigns against the big banks and Wall Street CEOs. These campaigns are made up of students, homeowners, workers and citizens fed up with the country being in an economic recession while the new class of “robber barons” gets bail outs and tax breaks from their minions in the federal government.
  • On April 4th the American Federation of labor has called for a day of action on Wisconsin and other assaults on public sector unions.
  • On April 5th Cornel West and Frances Fox Piven will conduct a national “Fight Back” teach-in that will be webcast on campuses and communities all over the country. At last count, it was almost 200 teach-ins.
  • Last weekend, a new group called US Uncut occupied and disrupted dozens of Bank of America branches around the U.S. Bank of America is one of the largest tax dodgers in the country.
  • The New York Times revealed that General Electric, a company with U.S. profits of $14 billion, paid no taxes - and in fact got a $3 billion tax benefit. GE’s CEO Jeffrey Immelt is also now the Obama administration’s liaison to the business community.
  • Radical wings of the climate justice movement are calling for a day of direct action against corporate fossil fuel extraction on April 20th (the anniversary of the BP oil spill.)
  • Homeowners losing their homes to foreclosure are successfully fighting back against evictions with protest and direct action.
But the harder we fight, the bigger the backlash. For example, labor campaigner Stephen Lerner has been calling for and planning direct action campaigns to fight back against Wall Street’s political and economic stranglehold. Corporate America quickly dispatched one of their top hitmen – Glenn Beck — to label Lerner an “economic terrorist” for planning to disrupt the American economy. But as Lerner retorted in The Nation this week, this isn’t a secret left wing conspiracy, it is large portions of the U.S. population sympathizing and supporting our ideas, analysis, strategy and tactics. The history of the “Gilded Age” may or may not be repeating itself, but it should also be remembered that powerful movements emerged from that period.

Why Environmentalists Need to Care About Wisconsin

[caption id="attachment_12102" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Rally in Annapolis, MD to support Wisconsin workers"]Rally in Annapolis, MD to support Wisconsin workers.[/caption] For one thing, the attack on worker’s rights in Wisconsin matters for environmentalists because it matters for everyone. A war on workers is a war on all of us. Across the country, many of us are public workers or have family or friends that are. We also depend on public school teachers and every other public worker to maintain the daily business of our cities. A country that can no longer protect, let alone respect, the people who teach our children, repair our roads, maintain our sanitation, and care for our sick threatens the well being of all average people. When governments eagerly go after their own public workers, we have to ask ourselves what else they are willing to compromise. On another level, if you’re concerned about the environment you should care about what’s happening in Wisconsin because the same people, the same corporate interests that have orchestrated this attack on workers are also lobbying to slash funding for the EPA, working to destroy any notion of climate legislation and securing massive handouts for big polluters. Big Oil, Big Pharma, Big Ag have bought and paid for our democracy, and it is their agenda that our elected representatives are serving. Billionaire polluters like the Koch brothers who funded the crippling of last year’s climate bill and are now going after the EPA, are also funding this attack on our state’s teachers and other public workers. The same big corporations that have a vested interest in minimizing environmental regulations are pushing to cut the power of workers. Wednesday’s passing of Governor Scott Walker’s shameful bill stripping union workers of their half-century-old right to bargain collectively is not about the state’s budget deficit. As author Naomi Klein told Rachel Maddow this week: “Unions are the final line of defense against privatization of the public sector.” Instead of using the economic crisis to scapegoat public school teachers who educate our nation’s children on already paltry budgets, why doesn’t Governor Walker and his cronies go after the $4 billion worth of subsidies given to Big Oil? From our air and water to our teachers and nurses, the corrosive hold of corporate interests on our political system is damaging all of our most precious resources. Undermining the power of unions and the voices of their members is first and foremost about cutting down one of the largest forces standing up against corporate power. Their private sector counterparts have already been all but destroyed by the same corporations and government backers. What’s happening in Wisconsin is the result of turning our democracy into a dirty poker game. A game where only the very rich and powerful have a hand, the antes are the in the billions and the stakes are our country. Lastly, what’s happening to workers across the country should matter to environmentalists because our movements need the strength of workers and unions, and their movements need us. For far too long we have been divided into niche issues. It is past time we show up for each other. Not only because it’s right, but also because that demonstration of collective power is the only way to win. Can you imagine the day that all environmentalists, union members and educators, pro-choice activists, immigration and racial justice activists all worked together? That is the day when we win our country back. Co-authored by Nell Greenberg, Communications Director of Rainforest Action Network.

Why Aren’t Greens Kicking the Shit Out of Corporate America?

Corporate America flagI'm as mad as hell, and I'm not going to take this anymore! --Howard Beale What the hell is going on here? Rogue actors known as corporations have hijacked our democracy. They regularly pollute and poison our communities. They own our elected officials and use police and military forces as their own private armies. They control much of the major media outlets. They’ve even convinced our legal system that they exist as actual “persons.” If it were on television, it would be a conspiracy worthy of Fox Mulder. But you know what?  This truth isn’t out there. It’s right here in our faces. But despite all their power and influence, opinion polls STILL tell us that Americans are skeptical about capitalism and big business. Yet, environmental and climate movements seem to have their heads buried in a compromising rear extremity and are unable to build power, mobilize the masses, or tell a narrative with an anti-corporate (let alone anti-capitalist) theme. The case made against Corporate America destroying the environment, the climate and our democracy is made every hour of every day. Just a few examples:
  • Outlaw coal mining companies operating in Appalachia have destroyed over 500 mountains with little or no consequence.
  • [caption id="attachment_11145" align="alignright" width="220" caption="Deepwater Horizon offshore drilling unit on fire, April 201"]Deepwater Horizon offshore drilling unit on fire, April 2010[/caption]
  • Oil company BP spilled over 205 million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico and have suffered limited consequences.
  • In 2004, U.S. coal-fired power plants produced more carbon than was emitted by all sources in all of Africa, South America, and Central America combined.
  • 70% of America's coal plants are operated by 24 corporations and the quasi-private Tennessee Valley Authority.
  • In 2010, Big Oil put $19,588,091 into the U.S. political process. Big Coal put in $10,423,347.
  • Oil and gas companies spent $121 million to dispatch 745 lobbyists to Congress in 2009 to influence the climate bill.
A year ago, a right wing Supreme Court handed us Citizens United and gave corporations, right wing front groups, and greedy billionaires even more power. Subsequently, Corporate America threw an additional $296 million into the 2010 elections. Now the newly invigorated right wing wants to roll back essential protections like the Clean Air Act and the Environmental Protection Agency. Yet, the climate movement can’t even decide that corporate power is the root of the problem. Corporate influence is insidious and has its tentacles in all aspects of Beltway life. A former professor of mine describes the revolving door between government, large non-profits, and the private sector as “The Association State.” And a well-paid association it is, with sophisticated social, business, and political relationships stemming from Upper West Side and Georgetown cocktail parties:
  • Politicians often leave government to become industry lobbyists. In 2009, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, 321 former members of Congress and staff made their living as lobbyists for industry.
  • Industry leaders often leave business to work in the upper echelons of government. JPMorgan Chase VP Bill Daley recently left the coal and oil investing Wall Street giant to be Obama’s chief of staff. General Electric CEO Jeff Immelt recently joined Obama’s team as a top economic adviser.
  • Corporate leaders and billionaires donate to the big environmental groups and sit on their boards. Environmental Defense Fund board member, donor and billionaire hedge fund manager, Stanley Druckenmiller, is a major investor (over $200 million) in arch coal criminal Massey Energy.
With this quagmire of conflicted interests governing the White House, K Street Lobbying Firms, and the boards of large environmental groups, how are we ever going to see real change come out of Washington D.C.? To say “we need to fight back” is the understatement of understatements. I think last time we needed to be fighting back this hard, John Brown led an armed raid on Harper’s Ferry. Instead of looking for leadership from corporate shills like Barack Obama and the Democratic Party, environmental and climate movements should be kicking the SHIT out of Corporate America with the guerrilla fervor of a Che Guevara or a Geronimo (figuratively speaking, of course.) Over ten years ago, a powerful anti-capitalist movement captured the imagination of the world’s social movements by shutting down the World Trade Organization in Seattle and putting forth a critique of the corporate-dominated political economy and the elites that control it. And the spirit of Seattle still persists. Groups like National People’s Action, various unions, and a slew of post-ACORN networks have it figured out. Economic justice groups continue to target corporate criminals on Wall Street and in the foreclosure business. Last year, they put thousands on the street protesting big banks. Furthermore, these groups have organized foreclosed-upon grandmothers into occupying bank branches and led communities to stop evictions. Howard Zinn would be proud. Grassroots non-Beltway environmental groups, like those in the anti-mountaintop removal movement, have also incorporated anti-corporate frames into their narratives. Likewise, more radical direct action-oriented groups like Rising Tide, Earth First! Mountain Justice, Peaceful Uprising, Mobilization for Climate Justice-West and dozens of frontline and community groups openly resist corporate capitalism.  But these groups lack the resources and capacity of the multi-billion dollar environmental industrial complex. In contrast, the dominant strategic frame from large environmental and climate non-profit organizations is Beltway-centric and narrowly focuses on legislation and enhancing regulatory power. The rest of the country is diversifying economic and political power throughout the country while the environmental NGO complex stays in Washington D.C. without a rudder or a clue. Tea partyAnd one last thing to put this in context: the friggin’ Tea Party even has it figured out! (And I don’t put them in the “rocket scientist” category.) While their main organizing strategy revolves around tapping into working and middle class resentment against big government and liberal elites, one of their main gripes is Obama’s bailing out of the auto and banking industries. As far as they are concerned there is a corrupt connection between big government and big business. In their eyes, corporations are a big part of the problem. One of the Tea Party’s heroes is Network’s Howard Beale, a leftist anti-corporate figure if there ever was one, who cried out “I’m mad as hell and I’m NOT going to take this anymore!” An anti-establishment environmental and climate movement should reclaim Beale as a symbol of our outrage with the existing corporate status quo. Challenging the root causes of climate change should be the role of our movement, and that root cause is corporate power.

Chevron vs. RAN: Who's Speech Is Freer?

In the weeks since the Supreme Court's horrible, democracy-eroding ruling giving corporations unbridled spending on political contributions and advertisements under the guise of "free speech," many of us have asked what impact this will have on climate legislation and contested 2010 races. After getting unintentionally embroiled in a corporate free speech campaign involving a scrappy little enviro group called Rainforest Action Network, The Washington Post, and one of the largest oil corporations on the planet (Chevron), it's got me thinking of the political ad campaign implications of the ruling. And what it means for the public's access to real information in our withering media landscape. First, the Corporate Speech vs. the People's Speech story. Rainforest Action Network (RAN) recently began a campaign to Change Chevron. As part of the launch of the campaign we bought ads last week in The New York Times and The ads had a picture of Chevron’s new CEO John Watson face (which we bought the rights to from Getty images) and the copy read: “Oil men have polluted the Ecuadorean rainforest for decades. This man can do something about it now.” Chevron’s behemoth legal team immediately pressured Getty, the New York Times, and the Washington Post to pull the ad. The New York Times ran the ad. The Washington Post did not. The Washington Post (which receives huge ad revenue from Chevron) has sided with the oil giant and frozen our ad. As of 3 pm Tuesday (Feb 2, 2010) The Washington Post has said they will "unpause" our ad after a meeting between their legal counsel and Chevron's ad rep at the paper. We are now trying to get The Washington Post to run our new version of the ad featured above. While this may seem small, it is a window into what we will likely see run rampant as a result of the Supreme Court’s ruling allowing corporation’s unbridled campaign finance AND advertising. With the Supreme Court ruling, the controversy over the Super Bowl ads (which allow anti-choice but not pro-gay advertising), and this recent small example of Chevron throwing its money around to suppress critical ads, it feels like a good time to think about what this means. Advocacy groups like RAN have meager budgets with little money to spare on advertising. Chevron spends hundreds of millions of dollars EVERY year on ads that are deceptive, misleading greenwash. Don’t corporations already control our airwaves enough? As we've seen over and over again in the hugely frustrating climate and energy debate in this country, it matters less if you're right and more if you can scream misinformation to the general public- either through paid advertising or through Fox News. A Chevron media relations representatives said it best, "Not to say that news media ignores us," said Jim Hendon, media relations rep for Chevron, "but our ads tell a story that wouldn't get told otherwise about our company's environmental concerns. Oil companies can't rely on media, so we do it through this [ad] campaign." As we look forward, both in our advocacy work and at the coming election season how are we possibly supposed to compete with Corporate America's "free speech?" We must work together to right the wrongs of that Supreme CT ruling, support media advocacy groups like Center for Media and Democracy, and continue to work to change Chevron and other corporations that are destroying our climate, our communities, and our democracy. *Reposted from

RAN on the Radio

Ever heard of Corporate Watchdog Radio? It's a weekly radio show and audio/video podcast on issues that you most likely care about (since you read the Understory). Last week the Business Ethics Network offered RAN a Commentaries spot on the Corporate Watchdog Radio show. I recorded a short piece on biofuels - a timely week for it in light of the global food crisis and riots in many countries. Listen here.

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