The Ten Worst Companies of 1993

by Russell Mokhiber

EARLIER THIS YEAR, U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno, the nation's chief law enforcement officer, announced that she would hold weekly press briefings in her office at the Justice Department in Washington, D.C.

 Every Thursday morning since, at about 9:30 a.m., assembled reporters begin asking General Reno questions.

Ask a question about street crime, and Reno will respond with a two-minute lecture touching on all aspects of criminology and criminal justice, from prisons, to drugs, guns, deterrence, retribution, child rearing, what works, what doesn't - she hits the street crime question out of the park, every time.

 Ask a question about corporate crime and wrongdoing, and Reno looks at you like you are some kind of freak. She says something about white-collar crime being a top priority and moves quickly on to the next question.

 Whom does the Attorney General offend when she talks about street crime? No one that matters politically. On the other hand, if she talks about corporate crime and violence, she risks offending the corporate establishment.

 Reno knows this. That's why she is very careful - she almost freezes - on the rare occasions she is asked a question about corporate crime and wrongdoing.

Reno's failure to confront corporate crime and violence head on reflects a general aversion by the Clinton administration to admit to an ugly reality - corporate crime and violence inflict far more damage on society than all street crime combined.

When, for example, the U.S. Congress passed its $22 billion crime bill late this year, a measure that would add 100,000 police to U.S. streets to combat street crime, not a word was included about corporate crime, nor was a penny appropriated to combat corporate violence.

 Yet, in terms of bodies, corporate violence exacts a far greater toll than street crime. Just one tobacco company, for example, arguably kills and injures more people than all the street thugs in the United States combined.

 Who are these corporate and white-collar thugs? They can be ordinary people. Or they can be quite different.

 In his book, Without Conscience: The Disturbing World of Psychopaths Among Us, Dr. Robert Hare, a professor of psychology at the University of British Columbia, makes the argument that, like some street criminals, white-collar criminals can also be psychopaths. "They have charming smiles on their faces and a trustworthy tone to their voices, but never - and this is a guarantee - do they wear warning bells around their necks," Hare writes. "They often manage to avoid prison, and even if caught and convicted they usually receive a light sentence and an early parole, only to continue where they left off."

 Whether psychopathic, psychotic or simply ordinary people doing extraordinary things, white- collar thugs dominated the political economy in 1993 - unnoticed by the pundits and politicians. (Imagine, a Sunday talk show host stating "Issue One: The death penalty for corporate crime. Morton, yes or no?") Public corruption, pollution, procurement fraud, financial fraud and occupational homicide inflict serious damage on workers, consumers, citizens and the environment.

 The ten worst list, now in its sixth year, is Multinational Monitor's yearly effort to bring a touch of balance to the public debate over crime, violence, justice, right and wrong, good and evil.


Diamond Walnut:

Nuts to You

 IN 1985, WORKERS AT DIAMOND WALNUT in Stockton, California agreed to accept pay cuts of 30 percent and more. The walnut processing workers, mostly women and minorities earning $5 to $10 an hour, were concerned about the financial condition of the company and the firm's thinly veiled threats to move its operations to Mexico. "The managers said if we stuck by them, they would stick by us," said Cynthia Zavala, one of the workers. "Some people ended up taking cuts as high as 40 percent."

 In 1991, with Diamond's gross profit hitting a record $171 million, the company called on the same workers to take another cut. "The company wanted to cut our pay even more," Zavala told the Senate Labor Committee earlier this year. "They offered a small hourly increase of 10 cents, but they were going to turn right around and take twice that much away by making us pay $30 a month for our health coverage."

 The workers, organized by the Teamsters union, drew the line, said no and, on September 4, 1991, went on strike.

 Diamond immediately brought in permanent replacement workers. "Diamond simply æreplaced' these employees, hauling in unskilled people so desperate for jobs that they'd take these tainted ones and take them at minimum wage," commented Jim Hightower, the former Texas commissioner of agriculture. "The big corporations can cut your wages, chop your benefits, and if you complain, put you on the street faster than a hog eats supper."

 As the months went by, many of the strikers began losing their homes and cars. Some couldn't afford health insurance. Earlier this year, one of the workers died without health insurance.

 The federal government's response to this travesty: taxpayer assistance to the walnut industry. The Diamond Walnut-controlled California Walnut Commission receives millions of dollars a year in Agriculture Department subsidies to promote its walnuts in Europe. The arrangement directly benefits Diamond because it controls a major share of U.S. walnut exports.

 A company spokesperson argued earlier this year that Diamond doesnæt really have any choice but to cut labor costs in order to keep its position as the nation's largest walnut processor. "We were paying wages and benefits that were way, way, way out ahead of all of our competing processors in the walnut industry," said Samie McBride, the Diamond spokesperson. "And at the same time agriculture and the economy were experiencing some downward pressure, and thereæs lots of price pressure in the walnut industry as well."

 The National Consumers League (NCL) recently joined an international boycott of Diamond Walnut. "Consumers care about working conditions," said Linda Golodner, president of NCL. "They care about fairness to those who process and package foods. We urge all consumers to stay away from Diamond walnuts until the strike is over."


Dow Corning:

Breast Implants Gone Bad

 SOME WESTERN DOCTORS have advised women that small breasts are a disease that need to be "cured."

 Big corporations took advantage of the big-breast mania, and began marketing breast implants. Today, an estimated 1 million to 1.5 million women are walking around with breast implants.

 Dow Corning manufactured breast implants made out of silicone gel. The problem with these is that the gel allegedly tends to leak out of the implant and cause diseases in the women.

 About 10,000 women in the United States have filed claims against Dow Corning and the other responsible parties in the breast implant disaster, alleging that the implants made them sick and, in some cases, permanently and totally disabled.

 "I represent a lawyer who is 35 years old, who has lost a law practice," says Sal Liccardo, a lawyer in San Francisco who represents women suing Dow Corning and other manufacturers. "She is totally and permanently disabled for life with severe autoimmune disease - scleroderma. I represent another woman with a multiple sclerosis-like disease. Another with a lupus-like disease. ... These diseases are every bit as bad as cancer. They kill and they totally disable."

Dow "developed an evil empire, selling their fraudulent materials all over the world," says Cybil Goldrich, co-founder of the national silicone information clearinghouse, the Command Trust Network. "Along with their parent companies (Dow Chemical and Corning Inc.), they should remain responsible for the evil that [they] did."

 Dow denies a link between breast implants and disease. "We're encouraged by the growing body of scientific evidence from research done outside of Dow Corning that shows no conclusive link between breast implants and disease," said Gary E. Anderson, Dow executive vice-president. "However, a settlement would move the implant controversy from a divisive issue to a responsible resolution for all parties."

 Earlier this year, Public Citizen urged the federal government to bring criminal charges against Dow Corning for filing a false report on the safety of silicone breast implants. "We believe that Dow Corning violated federal law by deliberately withholding safety data on its silicone used in medical devices, especially breast implants," wrote Dr. Sidney Wolfe, director of Public Citizen's Health Research Group in a letter to Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner David Kessler. "Because of the potential harm of serious illness facing tens if not hundreds of thousands of women who have received silicone breast implants since the time of filing the false report, we believe that the FDA should seek criminal prosecution of the company and responsible Dow Corning officials."

 Dow Corning withdrew from the silicone implant market in March 1992. Public Citizen alleges that Dow Corning did not disclose studies showing that liquid silicone could cause autoimmune and respiratory problems when the documents were first requested by the FDA in 1989. The FDA finally received the documents two years after they were initially requested. The FDA then elected to restrict the marketing of silicone gel implants to a relatively small number of people.

 In 1988, the FDA asked Dow Corning to identify all studies in which any form of silicone was injected into test animals. According to Public Citizen, when Dow Corning responded to the request, it excluded some studies that the company had previously conducted. "How many more safety studies has Dow Corning not revealed to the FDA?" Wolfe asked.

 Dow Corning announced earlier this year that it had reached a tentative settlement with accommodating plaintiffs' lawyers to settle the breast implant cases for $4.75 billion. But dissident plaintiff lawyers complained that the settlement was unfair and was hatched in secret. "We have never had a chance to present our views and our opinions on any position before it was taken up with Dow Corning," Sal Liccardo complained. "We were just fed back a final deal, and they tried to jam it down our throats."

 Norman Anderson, a Johns Hopkins University professor of surgery, an expert on health hazards related to breast implants, called the settlement proposal "seriously flawed" and urged plaintiffs lawyers to reject it. Anderson estimated that the medical damages from breast implants could hit $169 billion, more than 35 times the amount proposed by Dow Corning. He said that the Dow proposal "offers a 2 cents on the dollar solution which amounts to little more than sanctioning the evasion of corporate responsibility."

 Public Citizen's Sidney Wolfe believes that someone should go to jail. "Justice demands that the FDA seek the most serious enforcement action - criminal prosecution - against Dow Corning Corporation and its responsible officials who knowingly withheld this vital safety information from the FDA," Wolfe said. "We hope the large fines and prison terms that Dow Corning Corp. and its officials will face will deter other medical device firms from withholding adverse information about their products requested by the FDA."



Human-Made Agricultural Disaster

 DUPONT IS NO STRANGER to Multinational Monitor's Ten Worst list. The company made the list in 1991 for being the nation's worst polluter. For years, environmentalists have been wrestling with DuPont, seeking to potty train this multinational giant, largely to no avail. This year, DuPont made the Council on Economic Priorities' list of the nation's worst environmental offenders.

Also this year, hundreds of DuPont's customers were driven to litigation over a DuPont fungicide that caused what the customers claim was the worst human-made agricultural disaster in history. More than 500 farmers around the country who purchased Benlate DF, a fungicide, from DuPont, are alleging that the product was contaminated with a herbicide that killed their plants. DuPont pulled Benlate DF off the market in March 1991.

 At first, DuPont decided to pay growers for their crop damage - the company paid growers $500 million in voluntary settlements. But then, in November 1992, the payments stopped. DuPont claims that company research exonerated Benlate as the cause of plant damage.

 Earlier this year, in a bizarre public relations ploy, DuPont Chairman Edgar Woolard went before a battery of reporters in Delaware and issued a public challenge to farmers who were angry at the company for not compensating them for their crop damage: test Benlate on plants - if the tests showed that the Benlate caused the damage, DuPont will pay for the alleged damage. If not, the farmers must agree to withdraw the lawsuit.

 Neal Pope, an Atlanta lawyer who is representing 14 farmers suing DuPont over alleged Benlate- related crop damage, called the DuPont challenge a "public relations ploy, pure and simple."

 Pope said that it would take about three years to decide on a protocol for the tests proposed by DuPont.

 "I have my own challenge before six independent jurors," Pope said.

 Indeed, jurors have not been kind to DuPont. Earlier this year, jurors in Florida awarded one farmer $500,000 for the loss of the tomato crop he planted in 1991 and $2.5 million to another for Benlate-related damage of exotic plants and shrubs. The Florida Agriculture Commissioner urged DuPont to "stop dragging our growers through the courts at tremendous expense and needless aggravation." In Georgia, as jurors neared the second day of deliberations in a Benlate case, DuPont agreed to a $4.25 million settlement.


Jack in the Box:

Tainted Burgers

 EARLIER THIS YEAR, Jack in the Box hamburgers allegedly killed four children and left more than 500 others sick from food poisoning in Washington, Nevada and California. Jack in the Box and other fast food companies have been complicit in neglecting a food safety crisis that threatens children and other consumers around the country. Thirty lawsuits arising from the food poisoning disaster are pending against Jack in the Box. The company has settled 22 others.

 "It is no safer today to eat hamburger than it was the day my son did and died 12 days ago," Michael Nole told a Congressional hearing in September of this year. Nole is father of Michael James Nole, who was the first child to die in Seattle from the Jack in the Box tainted meat. "What is it going to take before something is done about the way the USDA inspects meat?"

 At the same hearing, Dorothy Dolan described her two daughters' fight to stay alive after e. coli poisoning. Her four year-old daughter is recovering from a mild stroke because of the e. coli-related illness. "I cry and feel sick to think another child and family has to go through what we have been through," Dolan said. "We cannot continue to let our children suffer and die from something that can and should be prevented, from something that is stamped USDA approved."

 The meat, tainted by e. coli bacteria, came from Jack in the Box restaurants in the state of Washington. The outbreak of e. coli was traced to undercooked, contaminated meat sold at the fast food restaurants. Inspectors have estimated that as many as 40,000 hamburgers were sold from potentially contaminated shipments of beef.

 The public was informed about the tainted beef on January 17. The illness caused from e. coli has an incubation period of as long as 10 days. According to the Beyond Beef Coalition, approximately 6,000 cases of e. coli poisoning are reported each year. In 10 to 15 percent of the reported cases, the victims suffer serious kidney and heart illnesses.

 The present U.S. Department of Agriculture regulatory system does not require examination of beef for the presence of e. coli and other coliform bacterial contamination.

 In September 1993, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine said that the USDA was doing "virtually nothing" to improve meat safety since the disaster.

 "It became clear that the USDA's main interest was not in cleaning up meat products, but rather in cleaning up the image of American agriculture, while brushing aside consumer worries," said Dr. Neal Barnard, president of the Committee. "It has been eight months since the tragedy in Washington state and virtually nothing has been done to prevent future episodes."

 In response to the food poisonings, Jack in the Box said that it would pay hospital costs of those customers taken ill, increased cooking times on its hamburgers, switched to a new meat supplier, sued its old meat supplier and agreed to establish a medical monitoring and trust fund program for victims of its bad meat.



Some Take It With a Gun, Some With a Fountain Pen

 IT IS ONE THING for a big multinational corporation to rip off individual investors of hundreds of millions of dollars. It is another thing to get caught red-handed, and offer a 2-cents-on-the-dollar settlement. That's what Prudential Securities did this year.

 Between 1983 and 1990, Prudential raised over $1.4 billion from the sale of 35 "income funds" limited partnerships. The partnerships allowed investors to purchase interest in proven oil- and gas- producing properties for the purpose of receiving cash distributions. Approximately 137,000 account holders purchased interests in the partnerships.

 According to an exposé in the Los Angeles Times earlier this year, Prudential sent materials to brokers which described the energy funds as extremely safe investments, comparing them to the safety of a long-term certificate of deposit.

 Prudential initially made big profits in selling the limited partnerships. According to the Times articles, fees and commissions charged to investors by Prudential and Graham Royalty Ltd. - an oil and gas firm that was the general partner in the energy partnerships - totaled $388 million, or almost 27 percent of the initial $1.45 billion investment.

 But while Prudential and Graham were earning those big commissions and fees, the approximately 137,000 investors lost more than half of their original $1.45 billion energy partnership investment. Some of the investors, including many elderly people and retirees, lost their life savings.

Greg Fleming, a Houston attorney representing a large group of victimized investors, claims that Prudential intentionally misrepresented the partnerships to the public. "All you have to do is compare what Prudential was telling the public with what they were telling the Securities and Exchange Commission," Fleming said. "We're looking forward to proving this case in court."

 Fleming and others rejected an early settlement proposed by Prudential, a settlement that would be worth close to 2.1 cents on the investment dollar. "We thought it was ridiculous," Fleming said.

 Then, in October 1993, the Securities and Exchange Commission filed a lawsuit against Prudential, charging that the company falsely sold the limited partnerships as "safe, high-yield investments."

 Prudential settled the SEC case, agreeing to put $330 million into a fund to compensate investors. The company will pay $10 million in fines to the SEC, up to $26 million in penalties to the states and a $5 million penalty to the National Association of Securities Dealers.

 SEC chair Arthur Levitt called the settlement "by far the largest monetary settlement in a retail securities fraud case ever."

 "We are pleased to bring this difficult situation to a close in a manner that fully recognizes the valid claims of investors who may have been sold limited partnerships in the 1980s that were improperly marketed or unsuitable for their investment needs," said Hardwick Simmons, president and chief executive officer of Prudential Securities. "The creation of this fund represents our fundamental commitment to stand behind our clients and respond to their legitimate concerns about the limited partnerships."

 But lawyers representing individual investors who are suing called the settlement inadequate and said they will continue to pursue their legal claims in the courts, and the state of Texas refused to settle its case with Prudential.

 Criminal investigations are reportedly being pursued by U.S. Attorneys offices in New York and Dallas and by the district attorney in Dallas.


RJR Nabisco:

Corporate Evil

 MORE THAN 1,000 PEOPLE in the United States die every day from diseases related to cigarette smoking. That means that tobacco companies lose 1,000 customers a day. In an effort to replace the customers that have been killed, the tobacco companies must hook more and more children. One marketing strategy is to use cartoons to sell cigarettes.

 When RJR Nabisco, the makers of Camel cigarettes, and the creators of drug pusher extraordinaire, Joe Camel, made the Monitor's Ten Worst list in 1990, Joe Tye, founder of the grassroots group Stop Teenage Addiction to Tobacco (STAT) told us this about RJR: "The company has been so brazen in its attempt to recruit children to become nicotine addicts, so outrageous in its efforts to deceive smokers into believing that they can continue to smoke without personal harm, that æcorporate evil' is the only term that properly describes their behavior."

 The evil has not subsided since that first report. But thanks to the vigorous citizen action of STAT and others around the country, law enforcement officials have begun to take note. In September 1993, Attorneys General from 27 states called on the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to ban RJR's Joe Camel advertising campaign, charging that it encourages children to smoke.

 "Cigarette smoking by children is a dangerous public health problem," said Massachusetts Attorney General Scott Harshbarger. "Children are too young to make informed choices about smoking or to purchase cigarettes legally. The æJoe Camel' advertising campaign is unfair and against the public interest because it encourages smoking by children."

 The FTC is currently investigating the Joe Camel campaign. The FTC's staff had previously recommended that the agency ban the Joe Camel campaign.

 Despite a general decline in the percentage of adult smokers, smoking by children has increased. In 1991-92, there was a 12 percent increase in the number of junior high school smokers. Since the Joe Camel campaign was first introduced in 1987, Camel's share of the under-18 market has risen from 0.5 percent to 32.8 percent. "The dramatic jump in Camel's share of the under 18-market demonstrates, sadly, the effectiveness of their campaign," Harshbarger said. Each of the states that signed onto a letter to the FTC urging a ban have enacted laws which prohibit the sale of cigarettes to children under the age of 18.

 RJR denies that the Joe Camel cartoon ad campaign is aimed at those under 18. Instead, the company insists that the campaign is aimed primarily at those who smoke a competing brand, Marlboros. But the statistics refute RJR's denials. Camel's one-third share of the illegal children's market contrasts sharply with its 4.4 percent share of the adult market.

In November 1993, in Miami, Florida, a number of tobacco company executives gave sworn testimony that tobacco does not conclusively cause cancer, that smoking is not addictive and that tobacco advertising does not target new smokers. The sworn depositions, reported in the Miami Herald, were shocking testimony to the ability of tobacco executives to deny reality. Martin Orlowsky, former vice- president of RJR, who twice tried to quit smoking, testified that he does "not believe" that cigarettes are addictive, based on "my own personal experience," the Herald reported.



Monopoly Makers

TOO MUCH economic concentration is not a good thing. It can suppress competition and lead to a dangerous consolidation of the political economy.

 Mainstream economists, about 85 percent of all economists, believe that when the four largest firms of a particular market hold 50 percent or more of that market, then the industry is highly concentrated and prices will tend to be well above the level they would be if the industry was effectively competitive.

 The past 20 years, however, saw the rise of the right-wing fringe in economics - the Chicago School. The Chicago School professes that big is better, that the more consolidated and concentrated an industry, the better.

 The right-wing fringe was given credence in the United States with the corporatist presidencies of Reagan and Bush. Monopolists and oligopolists fared well during this era, and all signs indicate that a most dangerous proposed merger, TCI/Bell Atlantic, will go unchallenged by the corporatist Clinton presidency.

 TCI (Tele-Communications Inc.) is the nation's largest cable company. The company currently has exclusive access to well over 20 percent of all U.S. cable homes. The proposed merger between TCI and Bell Atlantic could expand that even further. If approved by federal antitrust authorities, the merger would give the resulting company access to half of all U.S. cable homes.

 Competitors and consumer advocates are concerned that if the merger gains approval, TCI will leverage its monopolistic control over local franchise services (the conduit) to obtain monopolistic control over cable programming channels (the content). Consumer advocates point out that since the cable industry is not regulated as a common carrier, the two large franchise owners, TCI and Time-Warner, can clearly make or break a programming service.

 This fear is not without foundation. TCI has already abused its market power. TCI and Time- Warner, both large shareholders in Turner Broadcasting, which owns Cable News Network, effectively blocked General Electric from offering its CNBC channel as an all news network. "If GE ... can be kept out of a market by TCI or Time-Warner, what can a much smaller independent firm hope for?" asked a number of consumer activists in a letter to the Justice Department Antitrust Division calling on the cops to block the TCI/Bell Atlantic merger.

Viacom, the owner of dozens of cable franchises in addition to popular channels such as MTV and Showtime, filed an antitrust action earlier this year against Time-Warner and TCI. In the lawsuit, Viacom claims that as the nation's largest owner of local cable franchises, TCI "refused to carry [Viacom] programming services" and "extracted onerous terms as a condition of carriage" while they "unfairly favored their own programming services." According to the lawsuit, without access to TCI's cable systems, "cable network programmers cannot achieve the æcritical mass' of viewers needed to attract national advertising or a sufficient number of subscribers required to make the network viable."

 Viacom claims that TCI said it would "crucify" Viacom's Showtime and Movie Channel services if Viacom did not agree to "extortionate concessions."

 "Given TCI's track record of anticompetitive abuses, it is alarming that they are proposing to merge with Bell Atlantic, providing the new merged entity with even greater power," wrote consumer advocate Ralph Nader, former Federal Communications Commission Commissioner Nicholas Johnson and other consumer advocates in a letter to Antitrust Chief Anne Bingaman. "In the absence of more effective common carrier protection, the larger combined market power of TCI and Bell Atlantic will adversely affect independent providers of information and lead to less competition and less diversity in information services markets, harming consumers."

 Johnson called the proposed merger "the most serious blow to the First Amendment in the last 200 years."

 TCI did not return calls seeking comment. But it has said that the merged company would have a phone or cable wire running into only 22 percent of the country's households, a concentration it believes is too low to raise antitrust concerns. And a lawyer for the company said earlier this month that "contrary to accepted mythology, TCI really has a very small investment in programming."


Tate & Lyle (A.E. Staley):

Sugar-Coated Union Busting

 UP UNTIL 1988, workers at the A.E. Staley company facility in Decatur, Illinois, had considered the company a reasonably good employer. But in 1988, Staley, which makes corn-based sweeteners, was acquired by the British conglomerate, Tate & Lyle. Tate & Lyle owns sugar companies Domino, Redpath and GW.

 With Tate & Lyle came a union-busting philosophy. Staley began to signal its new intentions when it imported a new director of labor relations from an International Paper facility in Maine where 1,200 workers were forced on strike and then permanently replaced. The union alleges the company also hired the pit-bull of union busting firms, Seyfarth, Shaw, Fairweather & Geraldson.

When the 800 Staley workers, members of Local 837 of the Allied Industrial Workers of America, began negotiations on a new contract in August 1992, Staley insisted on eliminating protections the union had gained over decades of bargaining.

 The union refused to agree to the givebacks, pointing out that in 1991, Tate & Lyle earned $400 million in profits on sales of $5.5 billion - and that Staley was one of its biggest moneymakers. The company then declared an impasse and suspended key sections of the union contract, including the union security clause and dues check-off.

 On June 27, 1993, the company locked out 760 union members, claiming that the workers had engaged in illegal activities, including sabotage, inside the facility.

A few weeks after the lockout, Staley invited local TV stations to tour the plant and witness the alleged sabotage. According to the Detroit-based monthly, Labor Notes, the evidence of sabotage was "slim."

 Labor Notes reported that during the tour, Staley Executive Vice President J.P. Mohan displayed whistles and air horns that workers allegedly used over radios, valves that workers allegedly turned incorrectly and with malicious intent, and a headless canary that had found its way into some Staley product. All this, Staley claimed, was part of the in-plant union campaign.

 The union denies the sabotage claims. Instead, it points out that Staley is the one that has engaged in dirty tricks and dirty business. In October 1993, the National Labor Relations Board cited Staley for unlawful surveillance of union members. The NLRB charged that the company wrote down license plate numbers of members of the local and videotaped workers while they were engaging in protected union activities. The Board ordered Staley to cease all electronic monitoring and surveillance.

 In 1991, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) fined Staley/Tate & Lyle $1.6 million for 298 violations of federal laws. In 1990, 44-year old Staley maintenance worker James Beals died after being overcome by toxic propylene oxide fumes. Beals, who was inside a cornstarch-processing tank making repairs at the time of his death, had complained only two hours earlier that "something has to be done about the propylene oxide problem, because tragedy is just around the corner."

Staley/Tate & Lyle needs to be reminded that union organizing is a legal activity, and that the lives of their employees are not expendable. One way to deal with union-busting thugs is to boycott their products. The union is calling for a boycott of Domino and GW sugar and a boycott of State Farm Insurance products. State Farm is a key financial ally of Staley.



Worse Than the Exxon Valdez

 FOR 20 YEARS, Texaco, the third largest U.S. oil company, pumped oil from the Ecuadoran rainforest, home to 300,000 Quichua, Siona, Secoya, Cofan, Shuar and Huaroni indigenous people. After extracting more than one billion barrels of crude oil, Texaco pulled out of Ecuador, leaving behind toxic waste pits, oil spills and poisoned communities.

 In October 1993 these five indigenous groups sued the giant multinational, alleging damage to the rainforest from the company's oil operations. "Texaco's oil drilling in the Ecuadoran Amazon has created a catastrophe worse than the Exxon Valdez," said Joseph Kohn, a Philadelphia lawyer representing the tribes. "Texaco has essentially ruined what once was one of the most pristine forests in the world, with calamitous results for the inhabitants of the region."

 The indigenous people allege that the company discharged more than 3,000 gallons of crude oil per day into the environment. "Before Texaco came to Ecuador, our rivers, lakes and streams had many fish, our waters were clean and there was ample game in the forest," said Arceliano Illanez, of the indigenous organization FCUNAE. "Now, our rivers are contaminated, the fish have disappeared and the animals have gone away."

 A spokesperson for Texaco called the allegations in the complaint "outrageous and categorically untrue." The Texaco spokesperson said that the company "consistently operated under sound industry practices and complied with all laws and regulations in Ecuador."

But Cristobal Bonifaz, a lead attorney for the plaintiffs, charges that rather than pump unmarketable crude oil back into the wells, as is customary in the United States, Texaco dumped millions of gallons of crude oil into human-made lagoons in the region, causing massive contamination. The company also allegedly dumped water contaminated with crude oil into the rivers and wetlands and set the oil lagoons on fire.

 "In an effort to gain greater profits, Texaco deliberately implemented drilling practices which had as their built-in waste disposal mechanism the constant dumping of crude oil into the environment," Bonifaz said.

 Rainforest Action Network (RAN) has called for a boycott of all Texaco products, alleging that Ecuador is not an isolated example of Texaco's plunder and pillage. According to RAN, in Burma, Texaco collaborates with the brutal Burmese military dictatorship in an offshore natural gas project. In order to construct a pipeline through the rainforest, the army has declared "free-fire zones" in which soldiers are authorized to shoot civilians, including members of the Karen hilltribe.

 In Indonesia, pollution from Texaco's Caltex operations has reportedly killed fish in Siak River tributaries, destroyed rubber trees near the streams, and caused skin diseases among Sungai Limau villagers. In England, activists are boycotting Texaco over allegations that the company is refusing to hire job applicants who are HIV positive or who refuse to have an HIV test.

The overall message from Texaco this year: you can't trust your car, or anything else, with the man who wears the great big Texaco star.



Burning Up the Myth of Al Gore

 IN DECEMBER 1992, Vice-President-elect Al Gore promised that one of the world's largest incinerators, the one built by Waste Technology Industries in East Liverpool, Ohio, would not be permitted to operate until a full investigation of the facility had been completed.

 Then, earlier this year, Al Gore and his boss, Bill Clinton, decided to conduct the study, but broke Al's promise and allowed the incinerator to operate while the study was in progress.

 The incinerator, which is permitted to emit lead, mercury and hundreds of other compounds, is located only 400 yards from an elementary school.

"The WTI facility is the worst siting decision I have seen in my 25 years of practice in public health," said public health expert Dr. David Ozonoff. "Locating a major hazardous waste incinerator 300 feet from the nearest residence and 1,100 feet from an elementary school with 400 children amounts to administrative incompetence if not malfeasance of office and does violence to common sense."

 "It is a matter of fact that the likelihood of an accident resulting in a sudden release of toxic fumes into the atmosphere is high," Ozonoff said. "This carries a high potential for genuine and overwhelming catastrophe."

 Despite herculean citizen protests, legal challenges from surrounding state governments (the facility sits on the border of Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia) and Al Gore's promises, one of the most dangerous incinerators in the country is up, running and polluting.

 Why did Al Gore break his promise not to allow the incinerator to operate until a full investigation had been completed? One reason may be two men named Jackson Stephens and Robert Sussman.

Stephens is chair of Stephens Inc., a giant Little Rock-based investment firm. He was a major underwriter of Bill Clinton's presidential campaign. Stephens Inc. was one of the original partners in the company that developed the East Liverpool incinerator. Earlier this year, the Nation magazine reported that Stephens "extended a $3.5 million line of credit to [Clinton's] campaign through the Worthen Bank, which is partly owned by the Stephens family. The Clinton campaign deposited up to $55 million in federal election funds in this bank." "The man now ultimately responsible for EPA decisions on WTI is Deputy Administrator Robert Sussman, a law school classmate of Bill and Hillary Clinton," the Nation reported. "Sussman previously acted as legal counsel to the Chemical Manufacturers Association, at a time when two of its biggest clients, DuPont and BASF, were negotiating contracts to supply two-thirds of the waste to WTI."

 Terri Swearingen, a registered nurse who lives in West Virginia, just across the border from the WTI facility, is justifiably outraged by Al Gore's betrayal. She has led the fight to shut down the WTI incinerator. She believes the incinerator is illegal and unsafe.

Earlier this year, Swearingen organized a mass return of Gore's best-selling "Earth in the Balance" back to Gore. (To participate in this ongoing protest, send Gore's book, with your own message inscribed to: Terri Swearingen, RD 1, Box 365, Chester, West Virginia 26034.)