Multinational Monitor

DEC 2000
VOL 21 No. 12


Enemies of the Future: The Ten Worst Corporations of 2000
by Russell Mokhiber and Robert Weissman

Raw Power: Plant-Closing Threats and the Threat to Union Organizing
by Kate Bronfenbrenner


Healthcare for All: The Campaign for Single-Payer Health Insurance in Massachusetts and the United States
an interview with David Himmelstein


Behind the Lines

Natural vs. Artificial "Persons"

The Front
Phasing Out User
Fees - Guatemalan Oil Debacle

The Lawrence Summers Memorial Award

Names In the News


Names In the News

Coke Settles Race Suit

Coca-Cola will pay $192.5 million to settle a race discrimination class action lawsuit filed on behalf of a class of approximately 2000 African-Americans who have worked for the Coca-Cola Company in the United States in salaried positions since April 22, 1995.

In addition to an approximately $113 million cash settlement, Coca-Cola agreed to make future pay equity adjustments that plaintiffs’ experts estimate will cost about $43.5 million, and to implement unprecedented programmatic reforms that plaintiffs estimate will cost about $36 million.

"This settlement sets a new standard for corporate diversity. In short, the ‘World of Coke’ will be going through a ‘World of Change,’" said co-lead counsel Cyrus Mehri of Mehri, Malkin & Ross, PLLC.

In their lawsuit, the African-American employees charged that Coke systematically discriminated against African-Americans, paying them lower salaries than whites for the same work, passing them over for promotions and subjecting them to harassment.

Publicity surrounding the case had troubled Coke, whose U.S. customer base is disproportionately made up of African-Americans and Latinos.

The settlement requires the creation of an outside, seven-member independent task force mandated to ensure compliance with the settlement agreement and to provide independent oversight of Coca-Cola’s diversity efforts.

The task force will produce annual reports on Coca-Cola’s compliance with the settlement agreement, to be posted on the Company’s website. The Task Force will also ensure that Coca-Cola establishes effective internal oversight of individual managerial decisions on promotions, compensation and performance evaluations, to eliminate unlawful bias and excessive subjectivity in decision making.

Most notably, the settlement requires that senior management compensation be linked to the company’s equal employment opportunity performance.

Irradiation: Anything Goes

Government officials and corporate executives from around the world have decided that the planet’s food supply can safely be "treated" with any dose of radiation, a conclusion reached without studying whether new chemicals formed by high-dose irradiation are harmful to humans, Public Citizen reported in November.

Public Citizen is urging that irradiation be studied to avoid harm to the public.

During a three-day meeting that was closed to the public in November at the World Health Organization, the International Consultative Group on Food Irradiation (ICGFI) decided that the maximum radiation dose for food could be eliminated without posing additional hazards to people.

The current international radiation limit is 10 kiloGray - the equivalent of 330 million chest X-rays, or 2,000 times the fatal radiation dose for humans. The ICGFI reasoned that some food has to be irradiated at high levels to kill certain microorganisms. In reaching the decision, the ICGFI ignored its own 1994 recommendation to study whether the new chemicals created by high-dose irradiation can cause cancer, mutations, immune system disorders, reproductive malfunctions or other health problems in people. Public Citizen has requested that this recommendation be followed.

Allowed in the meeting room during negotiations over the new anything-goes standard were representatives from several irradiation companies and food industry trade groups, including Titan of San Diego, Isomedix/STERIS of New Jersey, the Grocery Manufacturers of America, and the Association of International Industrial Irradiation. Some of the corporate executives are government-appointed delegates to the ICGFI.

"This is a classic example of how corporations are granted special rights to shape public policy to their liking," says Wenonah Hauter, director of Public Citizen’s Critical Mass Energy and Environment Program.

Occupational Manslaughter

Midland Environmental Services, Inc., and the company’s owner, Edmund D. Woods, pled guilty to criminal manslaughter charges in connection with the 1994 fatality of an employee, Michael J. Rennenberg.

The plea represented the first time in Michigan history that an owner was held criminally responsible for a workplace fatality.

On December 8, 1994, Michael J. Rennenberg, an employee of Midland Environmental Services, Inc., was killed when an explosion occurred during a cutting operation on an underground storage tank which had previously contained a petroleum product.

At his plea hearing, Woods admitted that he was supervising the work activities on the day of the explosion, that the workers were using the wrong cutting device, and that the device ignited the spark which caused the explosion.

"Edmund Woods consistently and blatantly ignored basic [safety] regulations, and refused to provide a work environment free from hazards," says Kathy Wilbur, director of the Michigan Department of Consumer & Industry Services (CIS).

Both Woods and Midland pled guilty to attempted involuntary manslaughter and willful criminal violation of the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Act.

The guilty pleas carry a maximum criminal penalty of $35,000, and a maximum prison term of five years. Sentencing on all four counts is scheduled for late December.

- Russell Mokhiber


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