The Multinational Monitor


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Teamsters Throw A Ryder

A month-long Teamsters' strike against the largest carhauler in the United States was halted in mid-October, after the company agreed that it would cancel plans to turn to non-unionized workers.

Ryder Automotive Carrier Group had intended to hire non-unionized truckers and dockers and wanted the union to agree to cuts in salaries and benefits. Instead, more than 5,000 Teamsters went on strike a week after talks broke down on September 1, 1995.

The company has not been pushing for belt-tightening across the board -- at least not the executive board. Last year, top Ryder executives got salary increases of 38 percent. Ryder, which specializes in delivering automobiles from manufacturers to dealers, lost an estimated $10 million during the strike, failing to deliver some 500,000 cars. Pressure from auto makers, especially General Motors -- which ships 60 percent of its vehicles with Ryder -- was key to the union victory. Auto makers were upset by strike-caused delays in the delivery of 1996 model cars.

The trucking company apparently underestimated the Teamsters' ability to sustain the strike. "When the strike started we were hopeful that it could be resolved within a week and would not have much of an impact," Edward A Houston, Ryder's chief financial officer told Business Week magazine near the end of the strike.

"We didn't pick this fight," says Ron Carey, president of the 1.4 million-member Teamsters Union. "But once we were forced into it, we showed this country that the Teamsters Union is ready to stand up for good, secure jobs -- and to do it with a smart strategy."

Carcinogen Shopping

Common household products contain carcinogens and other toxins, according to a report released in September 1995.

"There is a wide range of consumer products which contain more than 400 toxic industrial chemicals," says the "Dirty Dozen Products" report released by Chicago-based Cancer Prevention Coalition (CPC). "Some of these toxics cause cancer, nervous system damage and damaging reproductive effects." CPC is made up of independent health scientists and consumer activists.

The report says that more than 500,000 people in the United States died of cancer in 1994 and that cancer will surpass heart failure as the leading cause of death within five years. "One in three of us is going to die of cancer," says Dr. Samuel Epstein, a health scientist, investigative writer and chair of the CPC.

The report urges manufacturers to avoid using toxins and to stop concealing information about their use. Manufacturers are not buying it.

"The tiny exposure humans normally have to the chemicals in these products would pose no risk to human health," said toxicologist Dr. Michael Kamrin, in a statement on behalf of the industry-financed Advancement of Sound Science Coalition, a group representing business people and scientists who advocate public policy based on "sound science."

"Calling perfectly safe ingredients clearly labeled on packages 'hidden contaminants' is totally false," said Dr. Rhona Applebaum of the National Food Processors Association in a statement responding to the report.

CPC investigators say the extent of carcinogen subterfuge is illustrated by the fact that they had to set up a "dummy" cleaning company to find out the truth about products with labels that failed to list toxic ingredients.

Making the CPC Dirty-Dozen list were: beef frankfurters by Oscar Mayer Foods; whole milk by Borden and Lucerne; talcum powder by Johnson & Johnson; Cover Girl make-up and Crest Tartar Control toothpaste by Procter & Gamble; Alberto VO5 conditioner by Alberto Culver; Nice'n Easy haircolor by Clairol; Ajax cleanser by Colgate-Palmolive; Zud cleanser and Lysol disinfectant by Reckitt & Colman; Zodiac flea collars by Sabdoz Agro; and Monsanto's Ortho Weed-B-Gon weed killer.

The Dirty Dozen report says many of the products contain a battery of questionable ingredients. An Oscar Mayer hot dog, it says, contains benzene hexachloride, dacthal, dieldrin, DDT, heptachlor, hexachlorobenzene, lindane, hormones, antiobiotics and nitrates.

Ozone Deep Freeze

Refrigerator manufacturers mislead consumers about appliances containing ozone-depleting chemicals, according to an October 1995 lawsuit.

Alleging violations of Federal Trade Commission rules and California state law, Washington, D.C.-based Ozone Action and Oakland, California-based Environmental Law Foundation (ELF) charged in a California court that General Electric, Amana and Whirlpool misled consumers by labeling their refrigerators "ozone safe" or "CFC free." Suit defendants also include such retailers as Circuit City, Montgomery Ward, Adry-Mart and Whole Earth Access.

"No completely ozone-safe refrigerators are available to U.S. consumers," says Kalee Kreider of Ozone Action. Ozone Action and ELF say safe, efficient and inexpensive alternatives to CFC (chlorofluorocarbon) and HCFC (hydrochlorofluorocarbon) technologies are already available in Europe. The recent award of the Nobel Prize to three chemists for their pioneering work on ozone depletion should eliminate doubts about the effect of these compounds on the ozone layer, Kreider says.

"We have not mentioned HCFCs in our advertisement," says GE spokesperson Phyllis Piano, "because they have a minor impact on ozone depletion."

-- Haider Rizvi

Run on the Bank

Hundreds of people rallied in Washington, D.C. in October 1995 to bash World Bank environmental and development policies.

Scholars and activists representing various organizations around the world conducted a sit-in in front of the hotel where Bank and government officials held the Bank's 51st annual meeting.

The protest was organized by the 50 Years Is Enough Campaign, a coalition of 160 U.S. organizations joined by more than 170 groups from Asia, Europe, Africa and Latin America. Protesters urged the World Bank and International Monetary Fund to abandon policies that they say have sown social, economic and environmental deterioration in the Third World.

Campaign leader Ross Hammond said new Bank President James Wolfensohn "should call for a halt to the imposition of structural adjustment policies. Until then, the World Bank's performance in the field will continue to be a failure."

A Bank statement responding to such criticism said, "there is nothing in structural adjustment programs that specifies cutbacks in health and education spending," though the Bank statement acknowledged that "such cutbacks sometimes occur" in "the implementation of these programs by governments."

In a comment reported in the Wall Street Journal, multimillionare Wolfensohn said "the only person I've made poor so far by coming to the Bank is me."

-- Haider Rizvi

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