Center For Workers Education

for building a democratic labour movement in India

Excerpts from an Interesting Report on Corporate Human Rights Violators

“Most Wanted” Corporate Human Rights Violators of 2012, http://www.globalexchange.org/corporateHRviolators

Introduction

Corporations carry out some of the most horrific human rights abuses of modern times, but it is increasingly difficult to hold them to account. Economic globalization and the rise of transnational corporate power have created a favorable climate for corporate human rights abusers, which are governed principally by the codes of supply and demand and show genuine loyalty only to their stockholders. Though it isn’t easy, we can check the power of corporations—and citizens around the world are stepping up to do it. Global Exchange developed this 2012 list of some of the world’s worst corporate abusers to illustrate that on issues as diverse as assassination, torture, kidnapping, environmental degradation, huge campaign donations, violently repressing political rights, releasing toxins into pristine environments, destroying homes, discrimination, and causing widespread health problems, the companies below play a big role. Now we need you to take action!

This list of “MOST WANTED” corporate criminals gives you information about the abusive behavior of this year’s worst corporations, tells you who is responsible, and how to connect with and support people who are doing something about it. The more you know, the less these corporations can continue their abuses out of public eyesight: so share this information with your friends, get on the phone with the CEOs themselves, and exercise your rights as a global citizen and consumer today.

The List

1. Bank of America for funding of enviornmentally harmful coal industry, excessive campaign contributions

2. Chevron for damaging ecosystem and people of Ecuador, repression of protest to oil extraction, Brazil spill

3. Century International Arms for producing Romanian AKs, which are frequently smuggled into Mexico

4. Halliburton for hydraulic fracturing, involvement in the Gulf spill, bribery in Nigeria

5. The Hershey Company for refusing to use fair trade labor and continuing to support labor that violates human rights standards

6. Monsanto for promotion of monocropping, involvement in government, refusing to label product, bankrupting small farms

7. Pacific Rim for mining in El Salvador

8. TransCanada for plans to construct Keystone XL Pipeline

9. Veolia for operations in Israel, high prices and bad service, privitization of water

10. Wal-Mart for unfair treatment of employees, use of sweatshop labor, bribery in Mexico

 

Bank of America

Chairman: Charles O. Holliday

CEO: Bryan T. Moynihan

Bank of America Corporation
Bank of America Corporate Center 100 North Tryon Street CHARLOTTE NC 28255
Phone: +1 (704) 386-5681
Fax: +1 (302) 655-5049

Coal is a primary reason for our current global crisis as one of the main sources of manmade CO2 emissions. According to James Hansen, director of NASA’s Goddard Space Institute, decreasing use and emissions of coal “is 80% of the solution to the global warming crisis.” Limiting and halting the construction of coal-fired power plants, which would produce millions of tons of CO2 emissions annually, therefore, is imperative in order to prevent climate change. According to the 2010 World Development Report, “if all coal-fired power plants scheduled to be built in the next 25 years come into operation, their lifetime CO2 emission would be equal to those of all coal burning activities since the beginning of industrialization.” Bank of America is one of the largest investors in coal, lending billions to coal plant projects.

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According to Bankrolling Climate Change: A look into the Portfolios of the World’s Largest Banks, Bank of America is the third largest contributor to the coal industry, spending 12,590 million Euros in financing for coal companies and the building of new coal-fired power plants since 2005. Further, Bank of America is not making any efforts to limit funding. According to the same report, in 2010 financing for the coal industry was almost double that in 2005. Bank of America’s clients include big power companies like American Electric Power, Dominion, Dynegy, Florida Power & Light, Great Plains Energy, and Peabody Energy, giving $6 billion to Peabody alone in 2006 for new coal plants. Since coal-fired power plants are expensive to construct (a 600 Megawatt plant costs around $2 billion), power companies require funding to undertake these projects. Banks like Bank of America need to stop contributing to environmentally detrimental coal production and focus efforts on better forms of energy.

Bank of America is also a major contributor to political election campaigns in the United States, ensuring policies that benefit banks are supported. According to OpenSecrets.org (Center for Responsive Politics), between 1998 and 2008, the financing sector including the finance, insurance, and real estate industry (abbreviated F.I.R.E) spent $5,178,835,253 on political campaigns, essentially buying legislation. In the past, Republicans have received more contributions from this sector than Democrats. However in the last two election cycles, big banks have donated somewhat evenly between Democratic and Republican candidates, giving a slight majority of funds to Democrats in the 2008 election. Big Banks truly care only about policy that benefits them, buying off candidates regardless of their party in order to ensure this legislation is implemented. Bank of America is one of the top contributors, giving $1,862,755 between 2011 and 2012.

Chevron

Chairman: John S. Watson

Chevron Corporation
6001 Bollinger Canyon Road SAN RAMON CA 94583
Phone: +1 (925) 842-1000
Fax: +1 (415) 894-6817

The petrochemical company Chevron is guilty of some of the worst environmental and human rights abuses in the world. Chevron has seriously damaged the ecosystem and people of Ecuador. In the 1960s, Chevron acquired a contract with Ecuador to extract oil, promising in this same contract to use modern techniques for oil extraction. Chevron, nevertheless, failed to follow these standards. Chevron did not line pits made for temporary storage of oil waste with tarps to prevent dangerous water and sludge from seeping into the ground, causing toxins to flow into soil and contaminating local rivers and streams used by local indigenous people for bathing, drinking and fishing. Chevron also did not follow regular procedure and built pipes that directed toxic produced water directly into rivers and streams instead of reinserting them into the ground. It also did not capture harmful gases produced during extraction, but burned these, a process known as flaring, releasing excess greenhouse gases into the environment. When village leaders began to notice black oil in streams and consulted Chevron as to the safety of this new substance, Chevron lied telling the locals the oil contained vitamins and minerals. In truth, the water and soil now contained detrimental petroleum hydrocarbons which can cause brain damage, respiratory problems, kidney damage, liver damage, bone marrow damage, blood poisoning, stomach irritation, skin irritation, cancer and birth defects to name a few. According to the International Journal of Occupation and Environmental Health, hydrocarbon concentrations had elevated above European regulation concentrations and US Environmental Protection Agency Guidelines, and the risk of developing certain types of cancer was in some areas 30 times higher than usual. Chevron’s reports of the environmental damage were instructed to be “removed from offices and destroyed.”

Sick and fed up with Chevron’s contamination of their communities, Ecuadorians filed a lawsuit against Chevron, hoping to convince the company to repair some of the avoidable damage they had caused. For nine years Chevron tried and successfully moved the lawsuit to Ecuador, praising Ecuador’s fair and equal judicial system, but truly believingit could more easily win outside the US courts. Chevron formed a deal with Ecuador’s government, paying 40 million dollars to cover the toxic damage with dirt, but never removing the harmful substances from the soil. After a thorough and complete investigation, Ecuador’s courts decided this wasn’t enough, and fined Chevron 18 billion dollars for the damage it had caused, including dumping 16 billion gallons of toxic production water into streams. Upon receiving this punishment, Chevron immediately tried and still is trying to avoid these payments. Chevron is paying millions of dollars to lobbyist in an attempt to pressure the US to cut trade to Ecuador in order to convince the Ecuadorian government to terminate the lawsuit. Chevron has also reversed its initial judgment of Ecuadorian courts, now claiming they are biased and unfair. Further Chevron hired corporate spies like Diego Borja during the case to bribe Ecuadorian judges and convinced military Captain Manuel Bravo to write a false report prohibiting the inspection of its poorly constructed oil wells, yet these deceitful efforts ultimately have failed. Regardless if it finally accepts blame and pays to clean its mess, Chevron will never be able to fully repair the environmental and health injustices it has committed against the Ecuadorians, most which could have been avoided.

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Spring 2012, Chevron came under fire in Brazil, where seventeen of its employees (mixed with some Transocean employees) are currently being tried for carelessness in an offshore spill last November and this spring. Brazil filed a lawsuit for 22 billion dollars, claiming Chevron was not careful enough when dealing with risky offshore oil fields. If they are found guilty, the employees could face sentences up to 31 years for these environmental crimes. Brazil is not the first country where Chevron has invested in offshore projects with challenging conditions, also pursuing fields in the South China Sea.

Chevron is also responsible for the violent repression of nonviolent opposition to oil extraction. In Nigeria, Chevron has collaborated with the Nigerian police and military who have opened fire on peaceful protestors who oppose oil extraction in the Niger Delta. In 1998, two indigenous Ilaje activists were killed by Nigerian military officers flown in by the company while protesting at an oil platform in Ondo state. In 1999, two people from Opia village were killed by military personnel paid by Chevron, after soliciting a meeting to complain about the company’s harmful effects on local fishing. And in 2005, Nigerian soldiers fired upon protestors at Escravos oil terminal, leaving one protestor dead.

Additionally Chevron is responsible for widespread health problems in Richmond, California, where one of Chevron’s largest refineries is located. Processing 350,000 barrels of oil a day, the Richmond refinery produces oil flares and toxic waste in the Richmond area. As a result, local residents suffer from high rates of lupus, skin rashes, rheumatic fever, liver problems, kidney problems, tumors, cancer, asthma, and eye problems.

In December 2004, the Unocal Corporation, a subsidiary of Chevron, settled a lawsuit filed by 15 Burmese villagers, in which the villagers alleged Unocal’s complicity in a range of human rights violations in Burma, including rape, summary execution, torture, forced labor and forced migration. Despite the settlement, human rights abuses have continued along the oil pipeline in Burma. Chevron is responsible for the risks associated with this pipeline.

Century International Arms

430 South Congress Ave. Suite 1
Delray Beach, FL 33445

The Florida based weapon producer is the main manufacturer and seller of Romanian AKs, sold as WASR-10s. This Romanian gun is sold in US for about $500 each and is very popular with drug cartels in Mexico. Based on demand and economic gain, these guns are smuggled across the US border and while they can be bought for as little as $400 in the US, they can be sold for $2000 to $3000 in Mexico. These guns are made in the US on account of the strict gun law in Mexico, which attempts to prohibit the violence these guns encourage. For example, a gun smuggler named Cameron Galloway was found guilty of selling these deadly firearms in Mexico, the same weapons found to have been used in a deadly shooting between federal agents and drug cartels in Culiacan that killed eight police officers. The Roman AKs are the most common gun bought in US since 2006 to be traced to crimes. From 2007-2011 more than 500 Romanian AKs were found in Mexico after being sold in US, accounting for 17% of guns recovered according to the Justice Department’s Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

While US law makes it illegal to import high-powered military guns like the Romanian AKs, gun manufacturers like Century International use a loophole in legislation that allows them to continue production. The Gun Control Act of 1968 banned foreign shipments of guns other than those for “sporting” purpose, such as hunting, and later extended to prohibit the importation of assault weapons. Using the Crime Control Act of 1990, which declares that a weapon is foreign if made with more than 10 non-American parts, Century Arms ships guns like Romanian AKs into the US stripped of any features that do not meet regulation. These imported weapons are then modified in the US with parts declared American to include features like magazines, bayonets, and other harmful elements typically found on an assault gun. These new assault weapons are legal, so long as they are comprised of no more than 10 foreign parts. Thus, Century International Arms create weapons illegal to import, but legal in the US since they are technically American. Century International Arms is one of the main gun manufactures that take advantage of these laws.

The Obama Administration holds that this process is completely legal, raising questions among disagreeing politicians regarding America’s interpretation and enforcement of gun laws. As Arizona’s former Democratic Attorney General Terry Goddard says, “We’re declaring ourselves … to be the allies of the Mexican government and fighting against the cartels. And yet through official inaction, the United States is, in fact, arming the cartels.” Century International Arms produces assault weapons that are often smuggled across the Mexican border, taking advantage of legislation and contributing indirectly to the ongoing drug war in Mexico.

Halliburton

Chairmain: David J. Lesar

Halliburton Company
3000 North Sam Houston Parkway East HOUSTON TX 77032
Phone: +1 (281) 871-2699
Fax: +1 (302) 655-5049

Halliburton is an oilfield services company, dealing with the finding and producing of oil. Halliburton is condemned for its involvement in hydraulic fracturing, also deemed fracking, in which they inject millions of gallons of water, sand and chemicals at extremely high pressures in order to make cracks in rocks and allow gas to flow. They access these unconventional oil sources by horizontal fracking, using 1 to 8 million gallons of water in each well. Halliburton says fracking is safe, citing that impermeable rock layers prevent toxic chemicals and water waste from getting into soil and water. These claims, nevertheless, have proved false as cracks and leaks have caused harmful substances to get into soils and drinking water sources. Methane leaking from these cracks and the overall process make, some claim, fracking the most greenhouse gas intensive form of energy (or on par with coal). Currently, the Delaware River, a water source for over 15 million people, is at risk to be contaminated from fracking as Halliburton and other companies are looking to use thousands of surrounding acres for gas wells. The Bush and Cheney Energy Bill, passed by congress in 2005, contains what many refer to as the Halliburton Loop Hill, exempting hydraulic fracturing from regulation by the Safe Drinking Water Act and allowing Halliburton to conceal the chemicals it uses in fracking.

Contamination of water sources commonly occurs from faulty cement in wells that cause leaks, an error BP claims was a factor in the Gulf spill. On September 8, 2011, BP released a report looking at the Deepwater Horizon Incident claiming Halliburton’s faulty cement was to blame for the spill. Further investigations by the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling found that Halliburton was also responsible for the massive oil spill, as the cement made by Halliburton caused hydrocarbons to leak into BP’s oil well, resulting in the explosion that started the crisis. BP is now ordering Halliburton to pay for the spill.

Halliburton was also involved in bribing officials in Nigeria. In December 2010, the Nigerian government filed corruption charges against Halliburton and former vice president and CEO of Halliburton Dick Cheney based on a 182 million dollar contract to build a gas plant in Southern Nigeria. Two weeks after the allegations, Cheney and Halliburton settled with the country for 250 million dollars.

The Hershey Company

CEO: John P. Bilbrey

Hershey Company
100 Crystal A Drive HERSHEY PA 17033
Phone: +1 (717) 534-4200
Fax: +1 (717) 534-7873

The maker of Reeses, Kit Kats and Almond Joys has not made efforts to improve the exploitation of its workers that continues in West Africa. Chocolate is an industry dependent on cheap and forced child labor on cocoa farms in the Cote D’Ivoire and the Ivory Coast, which produces 40% of the global supply of cocoa. According to the US Department of Labor, West African cocoa farms employ children, as young as 12 – 14 years old, who have been trafficked from neighboring countries. They are often lured by traffickers with the promise of earning a much-needed income or are kidnapped from their villages. Few are actually paid salaries and many continue to work to avoid violent punishment.

[[wysiwyg_imageupload::]]In these regions, poor communities depend on the cocoa industry for income, and most workers are therefore forced to comply with unfair labor practices. While other major companies like Kraft have made efforts to increase their purchase of fair trade certified cocoa, Hershey does not have a system that ensures its cocoa has not been produced by child labor. Hershey will not release information about its cocoa suppliers, which makes it impossible to ensure that its chocolate is free from unfair labor practices.

In 2012 Hershey announced that two of its products, Bliss and Dagoba, a small portion of their product mix, will be certified by Rainforest Alliance in order to deal with complaints of forced child labor in their supply chain. They also claim to be taking action to increase yields through farmer education in order to increase income to cocoa farmers and that they support children’s programs in the US and West Africa. They still do not support policies to stop child labor. While 60 companies and organizations have signed a statement called the “Commitment to Ethical Cocoa Sourcing: Abolishing Unfair Labor Practices and Addressing Their Root Causes,” Hershey has not. Hershey has refused to pay farmers a guaranteed fair wage, refused to make visible its supply chain down to the farm level, refused to support the enforcement of anti trafficking law, and refused to commit to sourcing from farms who operate based on ILO labor standards.

In addition, in August 2011, hundreds of student guestworkers working at a Hershey packing plant in Pennsylvania protested their exploitative working conditions. The students traveled to the US from all over the world to participate in the U.S. State Department’s cultural exchange program. Over 400 students paid between $3,000 and $6,000 each to recruiters for what they were convinced would be an experience of cultural exchange. When they reached the US, however, they were put to work for Hershey and were forced to work long hours with limited pay, reportedly as little as $1/hour. Forced to live and pay rent in company housing, many students were unable to earn back the money they had paid for the program. When the students complained of conditions, they reported that they were intimidated with threats of deportation. This labor abuse has led to four federal investigations by three agencies.

The Harkin-Engel Protocol, a pact signed by major chocolate corporations including Hershey, to stop forced child labor by 2005, clearly has not yet been successful in ending abusive working conditions. Hershey especially needs to pay more attention to its labor policies and sourcing of cocoa in order to put an end to the exploitive labor that currently persists in West Africa.

Monsanto

Chairman: Hugh Grant

Monsanto Company
800 N. Lindbergh Blvd ST. LOUIS MO 63167
Phone: +1 (314) 694-1000
Fax: +1 (302) 636-5454

Monsanto is, by far, the largest producer of genetically engineered seeds in the world, dominating 70% to 100% of the market for crops such as soy, cotton, wheat, and corn. The company is also one of the most egregious abusers of the human rights of food sovereignty, access to land, and health.

Monsanto promotes mono-culture—the practice of covering large swaths of land with a single crop. This practice pushes out subsistence farms and destroys arable land by drastically decreasing soil and water quality for years, draining soil of key nutrients. Mono-cropping also jeopardizes food security as farmers are rewarded with subsidies from the government for using only a select number of crops which are more susceptible to natural disasters and hurt the soil in which they are grown. Further, the company, using free trade agreements, undercuts food prices by flooding countries like Mexico, India, and Brazil with cheap, genetically modified foods, resulting in the displacement of millions of farm workers, who are forced to migrate to cities or work as landless peasants or share croppers.

Monsanto is the world’s leading producer of the herbicide glyphosate, marketed as “Roundup.” Roundup is sold to small farmers as a pesticide, yet harms crops in the long run as the toxins accumulate in the soil. Plants eventually become infertile, forcing farmers to purchase genetically modified Roundup Ready Seed, a seed that resists the herbicide. This creates a cycle of dependency on Monsanto for both the weed killer and the only seed that can resist it. Both products are patented, and sold at inflated prices.

Roundup Ultra, a version of the pesticide that is unavailable on the commercial market, is regularly employed in fumigation of areas of illicit crop production. However, as it destroys fields of drug plants, it also destroys subsistence crops like banana, palm heart, and coffee. These despised weeds have also evolved to withstand Roundup, motivating farmers to supplement the herbicide with more chemicals. Exposure to the pesticide is documented to cause cancers, skin disorders, spontaneous abortions, premature births, and damage to the gastrointestinal and nervous systems. Monsanto also created seeds that contain Bt, the gene of a bacterial pesticide, so that the protective pesticide grows simultaneously with the crops. Like weeds, insects have evolved to avoid the pesticide, resulting in farmers seeing more rootworm harm to their crops. Further, these genetically modified crops have not drastically improved the harvest, according to the report Failure to Yield done by UCS Doug Gurlan Sherman. Truly, GMOs have only brought profits to a select group of agrochemical companies, including Monsanto. Regardless of the success of GMOs, Monsanto refuses to allow products containing GMOs to be labeled. When Vermont declared it would start labeling GMO food, Monsanto immediately responded by threatening to sue the state.

Monsanto also forces farms to rely on its product. Monsanto uses terminator seeds, or seeds that are not reusable after one season of planting. Terminator seeds force farmers to rely on Monsato for an annual seed supply. Failure to comply with Monsanto and use their product can be a death sentence for a small farm. Monsanto eliminates small farms by suing, bankrupting the business either through a settlement or legal fees. Oakhurst Dairy, a family owned dairy farm in Maine, wanted to sell and label their milk rBGH free, a synthetic hormone produced by Monsanto. Monsanto sued, claiming Oakhurst could not notify customers their product was rBGH free, and ultimately coerced Oakhurst into settling outside of court. With large revenues, Monsanto clearly has the power to control farming, therefore giving it a monopoly on the agricultural industry.

Monsanto not only uses courts to control small farms, but also has a strong voice within Washington. In January, February and March alone, Monsanto spent 1.4 million dollars on lobbying. Monsanto’s director of corporate communicates Phil Angell has also put forward the stance that it is the government’s job, not Monsanto’s, to decide the safety of its product: “Monsanto should not have to vouchsafe the safety of biotech food. Our interest is in selling as much of it as possible. Assuring its safety is the FDA’s job.” Yet while it believes government should regulate the soundness of GMOs, many former Monsanto employees have a large influence on government policy. For example, Michael Taylor, former lawyer for Monsanto, was appointed to head of food safety for the Obama administration. Taylor was crucial in the decision to not require labeling for milk made with Monsanto’s artificial hormone.

According to the India Committee of the Netherlands and the International Labor Rights Fund, Monsanto also employs child labor. In India, an estimated 12,375 children work in cottonseed production for farmers paid by Indian and multinational seed companies, including Monsanto.

Pacific Rim

Chairman: Catherine McLeod-Seltzer

Pacific Rim Mining Corporation
#1050, 625 Howe Street VANCOUVER BC V6C 2T6 Canada
Phone: +1 (604) 689-1976
Fax: +1 (604) 689-1978

The Canadian based mining company has had questionable involvement in El Salvador. In 2002, Pacific Rim purchased a firm who held a permit to establish a huge gold mine in El Salvador’s main river, the Rio Lempa. Pacific Rim claimed its mining would not damage El Salvador’s environment, particularly its water source While it admitted that mining takes lots of water, Pacific Rim said it would use runoff water collected during heavy rain season for operation and would properly deal with excess water from mine production. Essentially, Pacific Rim boasted that is operations would provide numerous jobs while also being environmentally friendly. The public, nevertheless, portray a different story of the mining’s effects. Not only are locals fearful of their quickly diminishing safe water source, they also are worried about the cyanide containing water Pacific Rim uses to separate gold from rock. Earthquakes that are common to the region are strong enough to split open rock and release this toxic fluid. The promised jobs were truly limited, and few residents had the skills to do the available work. Further, a study by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature found that “[people] living near mining exploration activities began to notice environmental impacts from the mining exploration—reduced access to water, polluted waters, impacts to agriculture, and health issues.” Further, a 2007 national poll showed that 62.4% of El Salvadorians were opposed to the mining.

Pacific Rim has also been in question for the deaths and threats of anti mining activists. One vocal leader, Marcelo Rivera, who helped publicize the environmental injustices of Pacific Rim’s mining, was found dead and tortured in June 2009. Two other activists were murdered shortly after. While Pacific Rim has vehemently denied involvement in these deaths, others have claimed they received death threats from the corporation and bribery to campaign for Pacific Rim.

Recent efforts by El Salvadorians to eradicate mining from their country have landed them in an expensive, messy lawsuit. Pacific Rim has sued El Salvador 77 million dollars for its rights to mining under the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA), passed in 2005.

TransCanada

Chairman: S. Barry Jackson

CEO: Russell K. Girling

450 – 1 Street SW CALGARY AB T2P 5H1 Canada
Phone: +1 (403) 920-2000
Fax: +1 (403) 920-2200

The Canadian based corporation plans to build Keystone XL, a pipeline that would extend 2000 miles from Alberta, Canada to the Gulf Coast of Texas and carry tar sands oil, an extremely dirty source of energy. The pipeline would double imports of tar sands oil from Canada into US refineries on the Gulf Coast where it would be internationally exported. The pipeline bypasses refineries from Alberta through the Midwest and carries the heavy crude to Gulf Coast refineries in tax-free Foreign Trade Zones where it can be refined and sold to international buyers at a higher profit.

Tar sands oil is harmful to the environment, public, and economy. Canada currently has the third largest oil reserve in the world, and tar sands cover 140,000 square kilometers of Alberta’s boreal forest, a chunk of land approximately the size of New York. Since it contains so much carbon, tar sands oil production and extraction yields carbon dioxide emissions 3 times higher than those of current oil sources. Keystone XL would carry 900,000 barrels of tars sands oil into US daily, doubling US reliance and adding enough oil to put more than six million new cars to the roads. According to an Oxford study, continuing to use Canadian tar sands oil will bring us 14% closer to a point of non-reversible climate change. The refining process in the south also produces higher emissions of sulfur dioxide and nitrous oxide, which result in smog and acid rain that increase prevalence of respiratory diseases like asthma.

The process of extracting tars sands oil not only uses energy, but also exorbitant amounts of precious fresh water, as it is needed to separate bitumen used to make tar sands oil from sand, silt and clay. Three barrels of water are required to extract one barrel of tars sands oil, which amounts to about 400 million gallons of polluted water a day. One barrel of tar sands oil also produces 1.5 barrels of toxic waste which include dangerous substances like cyanide and ammonia that are housed in large human-made pools called tailing ponds and can get into nearby clean water sources, such as the Athabasca River, which sits alongside much of the extraction.[[wysiwyg_imageupload::]] Besides wasting water, the pipeline also risks leaking. In 2010, one million gallons of tar sands oil poured into the Kalamazoo river in Michigan from an Enbridge (a different Canadian company) pipeline, a spill that has caused damage to the local environment. Further, TransCanada’s Keystone I pipeline has spilled a dozen times in less than a year. The Keystone XL pipeline would go across six states and cross major rivers like the Missouri River, Yellowstone and Red Rivers and also key sources of drinking water like the Ogallala Aquifer which currently supplies 2 million Americans.

The increase in tar sands oil is also harmful to communities. Northern Alberta, where tar sands oil is currently extracted, is home to a large First Nations population whose tradition and lifestyle are disrupted by tar sands extraction. Further, communities residing close to tailing ponds have experienced increased rates of rare cancers, renal failure, lupus and hyperthyroidism. In Fort Chipewyan, neighbor to a tailing pond, 100 of 1200 residents have died from cancer.

Moreover, the pipeline would not help but most likely hurt the American economy. According to US State Department, the pipeline would only create 6500 positions for temporary construction work and would only leave hundreds of permanent jobs, disproving TransCanada’s claim that their project would ensure tens or hundreds of thousands of new jobs. In addition, a Cornell University study found that pipeline would actually eliminate more jobs than it would produce because it would decrease the attention devoted to clean energy.

Veolia

Chairman: Antoine Frerot

Veolia Environnement S.A.
36 38 avenue Kleber PARIS 75116 France
Phone: +33 171750000
Fax: +33 171751045

The France based corporation is the largest private water service company in the world, providing 95 million people with drinking water and 68 million people with sewer service.

Yet, Veolia has had questionable involvement in Israeli occupied territory. Veolia operates bus lines through the occupied West Bank, thus connecting illegal settlements to Israel. The buses do no make stops in any Palestinian towns and use Israeli occupied roads which have taken land from Palestinian towns and villages and have restricted passage for Palestinians between their communities. A Veolia Environmental Services Israel company, T.M.M Integrated Recycling Services, also operates the Tovlan landfill in the occupied Jordan Valley, using captured Palestinian land and natural resources for Israeli settlements. Further, Veolia was involved in construction and operation of a railway linking illegal settlements in east Jerusalem with Israel, a tramway whose operation was deemed illegal in 2010 by the UN Human Rights Council. The railway is designed to connect the city of Jerusalem with surrounding controversial settlements. The tramway is an effort to make occupied settlements permanent and eliminates hope of peace for the Palestinian people.

Besides its controversial actions in Israel, Veolia also provides mediocre service for an inflated price. A 2008 investigation by the French consumer group UFC-Que Choisir found Veolia overcharged Syndicat des Eaux d’Ile de France (SEDIF) 80 to 90 million euros. Based on these overcharged costs, many municipalities in the US have not renewed their contracts with Veolia in order to improve service at a better deal. Many cities, including Burley, Idaho, have spent thousands of dollars repairing Veolia’s poorly constructed treatment plants. Even in its founding city, Paris, Veolia lost its water management deal at the end of 2009. Veolia also overcharged the residents of Sofia, after taking over the local Bulgarian subsidiary Sofiyaska Voda in 2011, increasing water rates by 9% after three months of operation and threatening to discontinue service to customers who failed to pay the company’s hefty bills. Moreover, Veolia offered inadequate service and failed to prevent water loss, losing an average of 60% of its water according to Sofia News Agency. Sofia is just one of the many examples of communities who have paid high prices for Veolia’s substandard service.

More than poor service at high prices, Veolia in general denies the human right to water. Veolia refuses to operate in areas with the least access to safe drinking water, often because these poor rural areas can’t afford expensive water contracts. By privatizing water and selling it at huge prices, the company prevents fair access to safe drinking water for all.

Wal-Mart

Chariman: S. Robson Walton

CEO: Michael T. Duke

Wal-Mart Stores Inc.
702 Southwest 8th Street BENTONVILLE AR 72716
Phone: +1 (479) 273-4000
Fax: +1 (479) 277-1830

Within the US, Wal-Mart forces employees to work long hours with little pay. According to Wal-Mart Watch, a Wal-Mart employee makes an average annual salary of only $15,500 or an average hourly wage of $8.81. This means most full-time Wal-Mart employees still live below the poverty line. It would cost Wal-Mart shoppers only 46 cents more per shopping trip to raise this hourly salary to $12. In addition, from July 2005 to June 2011, Wal-Mart has settled around 70 state and federal cases surrounding wage and hour violations including lack of breaks allowed and failure to pay overtime, costing the company over $1 billion. Further studies in California, Georgia and Massachusetts have shown that Wal-Mart employees are more reliant on government assistant, costing the government an estimated $1 billion. Just recently, Wal-Mart even stopped providing health care to part time employees. Wal-Mart has also inconsistently provided safe working environments. In January 2012, workers at NFI Industries, which transports Wal-Mart products, complained with Cal-OSHA of dangerous conditions including abnormal heat, unfair speed quotas, broken equipment posing hazards, and excessive dust and chemicals causing dizziness and nosebleeds. Wal-Mart was cited for $257,000 on account of these violations.

Wal-Mart also treats minority employees unfairly. In March 2005, Wal-Mart agreed to pay $11 million to settle a federal investigation finding that in at least 250 cases, it employs undocumented immigrants to clean stores, forcing these janitors to work seven days a week without overtime pay and often locking them in stores overnight when they worked late hours. In addition, in April 2001, Wal-Mart paid $440,000 to settle and EEOC suit filed by Latinos working at Sam’s Club in California who endured harassment and racial slurs from other employees. Further, in February 2009, Wal-Mart paid $17.5 million dollars to settle a lawsuit filed by truck driver applicants who claimed Wal-Mart discriminated against them because of their African-American race.

Wal-Mart also drives out local businesses, at the cost of economies. When a Wal-Mart opens, local supermarkets and other stores have shown to suffer sales decline 10-40%. A 2009 study in Chicago showed that businesses within one mile of a Wal-Mart Supercenter compared to those farther away have a 25% chance of closing in the first year of a Supercenter’s opening, and 40% in the second. These local businesses, nevertheless, are better for local economies than Wal-Mart. A 2009 study in New Orleans showed that locally owned business give back twice as much revenues as big stores like Wal-Mart to their communities. Moreover, a study found that in Southern California, Wal-Mart’s effect on super markets could cause the area to lose $2.8 billion per year.

Less well known is the fact that Wal-Mart maintains its low price level by allowing substandard labor conditions at the overseas factories producing most of its goods. The company continually demands lower prices from its suppliers, who, in turn, make more outrageous and abusive demands on their workers in order to meet Wal-Mart’s requirements. According to the International Labor Rights Fund, Wal-Mart supplier sweatshop workers in China, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Nicaragua and Swaziland are denied minimum wages, forced to work overtime without compensation, and refused legally mandated health care. Other worker rights violations that have been found in foreign factories that produce goods for Wal-Mart include locked bathrooms, starvation wages, pregnancy tests, denial of access to health care, and workers being fired and blacklisted if they try to defend their rights.

Additionally, nearly 70% of Wal-Mart’s goods are made in factories in China, a country where garment workers are often kept under 24-hour-a-day surveillance and can be fired for even discussing factory conditions. The Chinese government does not allow independent human rights groups to exist, and all attempts to form independent unions have been crushed. Wal-Mart refuses to reveal its Chinese contractors and will not allow independent, unannounced inspections of its contractors’ facilities.

In spring 2012, The New York Times revealed that Wal-Mart bribed Mexican officials in order to speed the process of building new stores in the country. Wal-Mart bribed officials in order to construct hundreds of new store locations and thereby establish a major presence before other local stores had time to react. Wal-Mart obtained permits that normally require months to verify in days and convinced officials to ignore environmental regulations, among other things.

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2 comments on “Excerpts from an Interesting Report on Corporate Human Rights Violators

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This entry was posted on July 12, 2013 by in Social Security and Labour Law.

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