Challenging Corporate Authority (Dozens of New Strategies 1/2)
- Dear friends and allies,
Enclosed in both raw text below, and as an
attached document in RTF, is an article i wrote
surveying the new-paradigm projects and campaigns
against corporate rule which are beginning to
sprout up across the US and beyond with increasing
regularity. I list over 30 such examples, and
provide full contact information for each. I
encourage you to share this information widely
with your associates, as i think you will find
that this information has never before been fully
collected or widely circulated. Thanks in advance
for helping to spread the good word!
Paul Cienfuegos (mailto:cienfuegos@... )
Director, Democracy Unlimited of Humboldt County
Challenging Corporate Authority
Dozens of New Strategies are Sprouting Up Across
the US and Canada - Some of Them Dating Back to
Previous Centuries - That Challenge Illegitimate
Corporate Authority and Privilege
by Paul Cienfuegos
For most of the 20th century, American citizens
have become accustomed to challenging corporate
harms and corporate abuses of authority one harm at
a time - one clearcut Timber Harvest Plan at a time,
one toxic spill at a time, one plant closure at a
time. It wasn't always like this. From the American
Revolution through to the end of the 19th century,
in the words of Richard Grossman, "Earlier
generations of Americans were quite clear that a
corporation was an artificial, subordinate entity
with no inherent rights of its own, and that
incorporation was a privilege bestowed by the
sovereign people. For example, in 1834 the
Pennsylvania Legislature declared:
'A corporation in law is just what the incorporation
act makes it. It is the creature of the law and may
be molded to any shape or for any purpose that the
Legislature may deem most conducive to the common
Grossman continues, "People understood that they had
a civic responsibility not to create artificial
entities which could harm the body politic, interfere
with the mechanisms of self-governance, and assault
their sovereignty. They also understood that they did
not elect their agents to positions in government to
sell off the sovereignty of the people."
Here are a few examples of how different the rules
were in the US until the late 1800s. In many states,
corporations were prohibited from owning other
corporations, prohibited from donating to political
candidates or charitable organizations, and prohibited
from owning any land beyond what was necessary for the
carrying out of their chartered duties. Boards of
directors and stockholders were held personally liable
for all harms and debts. The 'limited liability
corporation', as we know it today, did not exist.
Sadly, as we enter the 21st century, few Americans have
any idea that such a history even existed in this
country. Yet this is starting to change. Beginning in
the early 1990s - thanks to the seminal work of Richard
Grossman and his colleagues at the Program on
Corporations, Law and Democracy (POCLAD) - Americans
started to rethink how we go about challenging the harms
that corporations get away with day in and day out in
every city and town in America. We began to rediscover
what an appropriate relationship looks like in a
democracy between we the people and the fictitious
subordinate creation we call the 'corporation'. And we
began to learn how to reframe our analysis of what the
Yes, of course, clearcut logging and sweatshop labor
and genetically engineered "food" are a big problem. But
the much bigger problem is that we've allowed fictitious
corporate "persons" to usurp our authority as citizens
to make these and other critical societal decisions
which affect all of us and the natural world.
If we no longer pleaded with corporate leaders to cause
a little less harm, what would we do? If we no longer
celebrated as victories every brief delay in the
corporate devastation of our world, what would we
By the mid-1990's, new groups were sprouting up across
the US and Canada, and asking themselves these questions.
Each was beginning to experiment with a different set of
tools than anyone had used for a century. Groups like
'Democracy Unlimited' in California, 'Reclaim Democracy!'
in Colorado, '180/ Movement for Democracy and Education'
in Wisconsin, 'Friends of the Constitution' in Nebraska,
and 'Citizens Council on Corporate Issues' in British
Columbia, are all examples of this fledgling new movement.
Clearly, to ask people of every ideology to rethink how
they respond to corporate harm is a very big task, so a
number of groups are beginning with public education
strategies. For example, in my community, 600 local
residents came together for nine hours of Town Hall
meetings last year to discuss the question, "Can we have
democracy when large corporations wield so much power
and wealth under law?" (Videotapes are available.)
I am going to share with you dozens of stories of
American and Canadian citizens educating and organizing
themselves and others - no longer simply challenging
individual corporate harms, but going after corporate
privilege and illegitimate corporate authority. There
is tremendous diversity in our goals and strategies -
just what one would expect in a fledgling new social
Yes, it's still a small number of groups, but the
number is beginning to grow rapidly, and there's no
question in my mind that this growth represents a
profound shift beginning to take place in the
consciousness of citizens.
Our world is in terrible crisis. We need to focus on
what strategies have the best chance of success, rather
than those which simply postpone the destruction.
Consider these dozens of projects as a guide for you
and your community. Contact the organizers. Learn from
their mistakes. Replicate the projects that seem to
work. There is no time to lose.
(I have organized the list into thirteen categories for
1. Bold Responses to Corporations Which Chronically
Break the Law
o The 'Wayne Township Ordinance' (Mifflin County, PA)
was enacted into law in 1998 by a 3-0 vote, and has
since also passed in Thompson Township. It prohibits
any corporation from doing business in the township (even
those that are already located there) if it has a history
of consistently violating any regulatory laws
(environmental, labor, etc), and further prohibits any
corporation from doing business there if any of its
current directors sit on other corporate boards which
consistently violate regulatory law.
Contact: Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund
(CELDF), 717-530-0931 or http://www.celdf.org
o Residents of Shasta County, CA are circulating a '10
Strikes and You're Out' ballot initiative in the town of
Shasta Lake City near Redding in order to try to stop a
large German corporation (Knauf) from building a
fiberglass manufacturing plant there (and other toxic
industry which may follow).
Contact: Protectors of Community Health, POB 1053,
Shasta Lake City, CA 96019, or phone Heidi Silva at
o The Clinton administration is proposing an
Anti-Scofflaw regulation which would prevent the federal
government from entering into contracts with companies
that chronically violate regulatory law.
Contact: Robert Weissman at mailto:rob@...
o A Boulder, CO organization - Reclaim Democracy! -
introduced for discussion (in 1998) a statewide 'Three
Strikes and You're Dissolved' ballot initiative.
Contact: 303-402-0105 or http://www.reclaimdemocracy.org
2. Challenging Public/ Corporate Partnerships
o The Berkeley and San Francisco School Districts are
effectively challenging corporate advertising in school
buildings and working to get tobacco corporation food
out of school cafeterias.
Contact: 'Center for Commercial-Free Public Education'
('UNPLUG') at 800-867-5841 or mailto:unplug@...
3. Local Communities, Locally Owned Businesses and Entire
States Organizing to Defend Themselves Against Corporate
o In November '98, hundreds of campus organizers from
across North America met at the Campus Democracy Convention
and formed the '180/ Movement for Democracy and Education',
a chapter-based organization that stands in opposition to
the corporatization of education as well as other forms of
institutionalized hierarchy and oppression, and calls for
a 180 degree turn towards democracy. Since then,
'Democracy Teach-Ins' have been organized on hundreds of
college campuses, many of them with their own active
chapters. They strive to unite students, campus workers,
and the working public in asserting democratic authority
over our schools. Ongoing projects include: challenging the
authority of corporate-controlled boards of regents,
mobilizing opposition to the WTO, forcing administrators
to stop purchasing from sweatshops, and exposing corporate-
controlled research programs.
Contact: 608-262-9036 or mailto:clearinghouse@...
o The Boulder Independent Business Alliance (BIBA) unites
independent businesses to compete effectively against
corporate chain stores. Recent work includes the 'Community
Vitality Act' currently under consideration by the Boulder
City Council. This legislation helps demolish the myth of
the "business interest" by supporting alliances among small
businesses that are victims of the chain stores. BIBA is
also facilitating the creation of IBA's in other cities
(two to date).
Contact: 303-402-1575 or mailto:info@...
o A new ballot initiative campaign in Oregon was launched
in winter/spring 2000 - the 'Oregon Human Rights Initiative' -
which attempts to statutorily codify the UN's Universal
Declaration of Human Rights (signed into law 51 years ago
by virtually every nation in the world), making adherence
to these principles a requirement to do civic or commercial
business in Oregon. Non-compliance can result in charter
Contact: chief co-petitioner Paul Van DeVelder, 541-752-8450
o A number of years ago, the town of Jay, Maine passed an
ordinance which gave the town the power to license, monitor
and enforce the same environmental regulations that the
state Dept of Environmental Protection, and the federal
E.P.A. do. In the town is a pulp&paper mill owned by
International Paper company.
Contact: Peter Kellman, 207-676-3356
o The San Francisco County Board of Supervisors has
passed a law requiring all corporations doing business in
the county to offer full benefits for same-sex partners.
It has already withstood a court challenge.
Contact: City of SF at 415-554-6141. Read the full text at
o The Institute for Local Self Reliance (ILSR) in Minnesota
launched the 'New Rules Project', which helps local
communities to organize against the ravages of absentee
corporate decision making by "identifying the rules that
could close the gap between those who make the decisions
and those who feel the impacts - new rules that could bring
both authority and responsibility to the local level."
Contact: 612-379-3815 or http://www.newrules.org
4. Prohibiting (or Defining) Corporate Involvement in
o New farming laws in Nebraska ('Initiative 300' - 1982),
South Dakota ('Amendment E' - 1998), and Pennsylvania (1999)
ban non-family-owned corporations from engaging in farming
or ranching, or owning farmland. Nebraska and South Dakota
achieved their success through ballot initiatives which
amended their state constitutions. 'Friends of the
Constitution' is a Nebraska coalition of 18 farm, church,
and environmental groups which joined together to defend
and enforce 'Initiative 300'. A similar measure was
achieved by two Pennsylvania townships (Wells and Thompson)
through ordinances passed by their respective township
governments. There are also a number of PA townships
discussing similar legislation which would ban corporate
logging or forest land ownership.
Contacts: South Dakota - Dakota Rural Action, 605-697-5204
Nebraska - Nancy Thompson at FoC, 402-494-9117
or mailto:nanthomp@... or http://www.i300.org
Pennsylvania - Tom Linzey at Community Environmental
Legal Defense Fund (CELDF), 717-530-0931
o In Sonoma County, CA, the Occidental Arts and Ecology
Center's 'Food Systems, Corporations and Democracy Program'
has two local projects aimed at shifting local decision
making from the realm of private, property-based,
corporate, "market" decisions to the realm of public,
democratic decisions focused on the "commonwealth":
1) 'Sonoma County Green Genes' is organizing to pass
resolutions at city councils and school boards calling
for a moratorium on the release of all genetically
engineered crops and foods, and for full corporate
liability for harms resulting from any releases of GMO's.
(The city of Sebastopol has already passed the resolution);
2) The 'Occidental Town Hall Coalition' has organized a
dozen town hall meetings around the county - each attended
by 250 to 500 people - to discuss the problem of and
strategize solutions to the expansion of corporate-owned
industrial vineyards, and the resulting loss of diverse
small and family farms and local agrarian culture. They
are writing ordinances that redefine "farming" and county
land use policies away from corporate interests, and
toward the interest of the people and wild nature.
Contact: Dave Henson, 707-874-1557 ext 4
5. Suing Governments for Violating the Federal Constitution
o A British Columbia-based organization - Defence of Canadian
Liberty Committee - is suing the Canadian government alleging
that Canada's participation in the MAI/WTO process of global
corporatization is unconstitutional.
Contact: Connie Fogal, 604-687-0588 or mailto:cfogal@...
The Website of Lord Weÿrdgliffe:
The Dan Clore Necronomicon Page:
"Tho-ag in Zhi-gyu slept seven Khorlo. Zodmanas
zhiba. All Nyug bosom. Konch-hog not; Thyan-Kam
not; Lha-Chohan not; Tenbrel Chugnyi not;
Dharmakaya ceased; Tgenchang not become; Barnang
and Ssa in Ngovonyidj; alone Tho-og Yinsin in
night of Sun-chan and Yong-grub (Parinishpanna),
-- The Book of Dzyan.