We don’t hear much about the Anti-Trust Acts these days, and not too much about labor unions and their political action committees.
But these two forces can play an important role in this post 9/11 era, as they played important roles at the end of the 19th Century and in the Great Depression.
22. To Enforce Anti-Trust and Anti-Corruption Laws
Mass movements of steel and railroad workers throughout the U.S. demanded the Sherman Anti-Trust Act in 1890 to stop large corporations from making deals to cut wages and speed up production even if it meant cutting safety standards and the quality of products. It was upheld in Standard Oil v. U.S., 221 U.S. 1(1911). By 1914, unions demanded the Clayton Act (15 U.S.C. § 12). The Anti-Trust Division of the Department of Justice was established to enforce these laws.
In the Great Depression, after the stock market crash, Congress established the Securities and Exchange Commission to oversee actions by corporations.
After 9/11, more and more pundits began to comment on the total inactivity of the Anti-Trust Division in the face of mergers of huge corporations, from computers to grocery outlets to TV and radio stations. This led to hundreds attending hearings of the Federal Communications Commission in 2004.
Labor unions, activists, and good government NGOs were on the path of action to enforce basic U.S. laws against corporate misconduct.
DOD Awarded Iraq Reconstruction Contracts Without Competitive Bidding (Larry Margasak, “Report Links Iraq Deals to Bush Donations,” USA Today, Oct. 30, 2003.)
Contracts in Iraq Awarded to Anti-Labor Monopolies (“The Corporate Invasion of Iraq: Profile of U.S. Corporations Awarded Contracts in U.S./British-Occupied Iraq,” U.S. Labor Against the War, June 6, 2003.)
Congress Members Complain about Contracts to Political Contributors (“Letter from Henry Waxman, California State Representative, to the Honorable Joshua Bolten, Director, Office of Management and Budget,” Sept. 30, 2003.)
Whistleblowers on DynCorp Corruption Win in Two Courts (Kelly Patricia O’Meara, “DynCorp Disgrace,” Insight on the News, Aug. 19, 2003.)
Corporate Armies Wage War in Iraq, Afghanistan (Russell Mokhiber and Robert Weissman, “The Rising Corporate Military Monster,” Common Dreams.org, April 23, 2004.)
23. To Protect the Rights of Workers and Unions
U.S. workers won passage of the Humphrey-Hawkins Full Employment & Balanced Growth Act in 1978. It requires the President to report to Congress at budget time on the unemployment rate and to propose a plan to bring it down to three percent for adults and four percent for minors. Bush failed to make such a report in 2004.
The International Longshore and Warehouse Union (AFL-CIO) is one of the most militant unions, with strong ties to unions around the globe. President Bush after 9/11, got a Taft-Hartley injunction against the union. That did not stop the ILWU, which won most of their demands. Labor is calling for a million worker march on Washington on Oct. 17 demanding: universal health care, a national living wage, guaranteed pensions, repeal of the USA Patriot Act. www.millionworkermarch.org
Bush Uses Taft-Hartley Act Against Militant Union (Doug Frechin, “Bush Declares War on West Coast Port Workers,” Justice, Issue 31, Sept.- Oct. 2002.)
Immigration Service Raids Wal-Mart Janitorial Staff (Steven Greenhouse, “Cleaner At Wal-Mart Tells Of Few Breaks And Low Pay,” New York Times, Oct. 25, 2003.)
Bush Failed To File Required Report Under Humphrey-Hawkins Act (M. Harvey Brenner, “Estimating the Effects of Economic Change on National Health and Social Well-Being,” prepared for Joint Economic Committee, Subcommittee on Economic Goals and Intergovernmental Policy, 98th Cong. 2nd Session, at p.53 [J. Rpt. 98-198, Serial No. J-98-17.], U.S. G.P.O, June 4, 1984.)
U.S. Government Not Protecting Union Rights of Workers in “New” Iraq (“US Occupation Forces Raid Iraqi Union Headquarters,” Iraqi Federation of Workers’ Trade Unions, Dec. 11, 2003.)
Oklahoma Workers Hunger Strike in Taiwan (Press Release, “Ponca Tribe and PACE Union Hold Protest March Condemning Environmental Pollution and Employee Lockout," Corporate Social Responsibility Newswire Service, Aug. 25, 2003.)
To be continued...
Berkeley resident Ann Fagan Ginger is a lawyer, teacher, activist, author and executive director of the Meiklejohn Civil Liberties Institute, a Berkeley-based center for human rights and peace law.
Contents excerpted from Challenging U.S. Human Rights Violations Since 9/11, edited by Ann Fagan Ginger (© 2004 Meiklejohn Civil Liberties Institute; Prometheus Books 2005) Readers can go to mcli.org for a complete listing of reports and sources, with web links.