Tag Archives: lobbyists

House Panel Exposes How ‘Shameful’ Meatpackers Put Profits Over Worker Health During Pandemic

“The report shows that corporate giants like Tyson and Smithfield worked closely with the Trump administration to keep their operations running despite the risks to workers.”

By Brett Wilkins  Published 5-12-2022 by Common Dreams

Workers at the Sam Kane beef slaughterhouse in Corpus Christi, Texas. Photo: USDA/flickr

A congressional report published Thursday revealed that meat processing companies worked with and lobbied the Trump administration to continue operating during the Covid-19 pandemic, despite the danger to workers in the high-risk industry.

The House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis report—entitled Now to Get Rid of Those Pesky Health Departments!—shows how major meatpackers including Tyson Foods, JBS USA, and Smithfield Foods engaged political appointees in the Trump administration in “an aggressive campaign to ensure their facilities remained at maximum capacity.” Continue reading

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‘Disastrous News’: Widespread Bleaching of Great Barrier Reef Underway

“This is a sure sign that climate change caused by burning coal, oil, and gas is threatening the very existence of our reef,” said one campaigner.

By Andrea Germanos.  Published 3-18-2022 by Common Dreams

Bleached branching coral at Heron Island, Great Barrier Reef. Photo: J. Roff/Wikimedia Commons/CC

An assessment of the Great Barrier Reef’s health released Friday reveals widespread bleaching of the world’s largest coral organism, sparking fresh demands for the Australian government to ditch fossil fuels and finally commit to protecting both the UNESCO site and planetary health.

“While not yet officially declared a mass bleaching event, this is still disastrous news for our reef, the marine life, and communities that rely on its health,” said Dr. Lissa Schindler, Great Barrier Reef campaign manager with the Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS).

The March 18 update from the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority suggests a fourth major bleaching event since 2016 is underway and points to warmer than average sea surface temperatures—0.5−2°C above average throughout the park, with some areas ranging 2−4°C above average.

“Bleaching has been detected across the marine park—it is widespread but variable, across multiple regions, ranging in impact from minor to severe,” the assessment states.

“Most observations of bleaching have been of paling or fluorescing,” the update continues, “but several locations have whole colonies bleached white”—a status “consistent with the patterns of heat stress experienced on the reef this summer.”

Of particular note, say reef defenders, is that the widespread bleaching comes during a La Niña year, which can help cool waters.

“This is a sure sign that climate change caused by burning coal, oil, and gas is threatening the very existence of our reef,” declared Greenpeace Australia Pacific climate impacts campaigner Martin Zavan.

According to bleaching expert Prof. Terry Hughes, “Corals on the Great Barrier Reef are not supposed to bleach in cooler La Niña summers. 2022 is a first, thanks to anthropogenic heating.”

Hughes also pointed to the marine park authority’s aerial surveys that “reveal (so far) a footprint of mass bleaching similar to 2017, when the central 500km region was hardest hit.”

“How many more maps will it take to trigger real reductions in greenhouse gas emissions?” he asked.

The right-wing government of Prime Minister Scott Morrison has faced sustained criticism from climate campaigners for doubling down on fossil fuel projects amid the planetary emergency. The prime minister also drew sharp criticism last year after launching a successful lobbying effort to keep the reef off a list of World Heritage Sites considered “in danger.” Reporting earlier this month that the Australian government pushed for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to soften its assessment of the reef being “in crisis” sparked additional criticism.

In a lengthy Twitter thread Friday, Greenpeace Australia Pacific CEO David Ritter debunked Morrison’s claims of having protected the reef and pointed to the government’s multiple climate failures.

“Preserving the reef would require clear and meaningful climate action, like a meaningful net-zero plan and a moratorium on new coal, oil, and gas projects,” said Ritter. “Instead, Australia was recently ranked last out of 170 nations for climate action.”

Ritter also noted that last year his group “delivered legal notice directly to Scott Morrison [and] advised he is in breach of his World Heritage Treaty obligations to protect the reef.”

“So, it’s time to cut the crap,” he added. “We know the reef is in danger, but we also know how to protect it.”

Addressing the prime minister, Ritter said, “Do your job to safeguard Australians and our magnificent natural heritage, by speeding up our transition to clean energy and urgently phasing out fossil fuels.”

The update was released just days before UNESCO’s reef monitoring mission begins.

AMCS’s Schindler said that the mission delegates must “witness the severity and widespread nature of this devastating event and while out there the Morrison government should explain to the mission why they continue to approve and cut red tape for fossil fuel projects.”

This work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). 
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US Lawmakers With Pipeline Stocks Profit as Gas Exports to Europe Soar

“Members of Congress who own stock in pipeline companies like Enterprise Products stand to profit from the push to export liquid fossil gas amid Russia-Ukraine tensions,” according to a new investigation.

By Kenny Stancil.  Published 2-10-2022 by Common Dreams

The LNG taker Rivers arrives in Brest. Photo: Pline/Wikimedia Commons/CC

Amid escalating tensions between Russia and Ukraine, which could have far-reaching implications for energy markets in central Europe, U.S. President Joe Biden has increased gas exports to Germany and surrounding countries, benefiting members of Congress who own—and are buying up more—stock in pipeline and tanker companies.

That’s according to new reporting published Wednesday by the nonprofit investigative outlet Sludge, which previously identified at least 28 U.S. senators and 100 House members whose households own stock in oil and gas companies or hold other investments in the fossil fuel industry. Continue reading

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‘We Are Fighting Back’: Global Black Friday Strikes and Protests Seek to #MakeAmazonPay

“We are workers and activists divided by geography and our role in the global economy but united in our commitment to Make Amazon Pay fair wages, its taxes, and for its impact on the planet.”

By Kenny Stancil.  Published 11-25-2021 by Common Dreams

Workers at the FRA3 Amazon datacenter in Frankfurt, Germany. Photo: Amazon Workers International/Twitter

On Black Friday, more than 70 labor unions and progressive advocacy groups shut down workplaces and hit the streets in cities around the globe to demand—on Amazon’s most profitable day of the year—that the sprawling tech and logistics corporation pay a living wage to its employees and a fair share of taxes to compensate the societies in which it operates.

“From oil refineries, to factories, to warehouses, to data centers, to corporate offices in countries across the world, workers and activists are rising up in strikes, protests, and actions to Make Amazon Pay,” reads the campaign’s website. While the international coalition held its first Black Friday day of action 12 months ago, opposition to Amazon’s abuses has only grown since then, and work stoppages and rallies targeting the e-commerce giant were expected in at least 20 countries on every inhabited continent this year.

According to the Make Amazon Pay coalition, planned actions include:

  • In Kathmandu, Nepal, organizers from the UNICOME Nepal and UNI Nepal Liaison Council will protest in defense of Amazon suppliers and their rights to decent conditions;
  • In Berlin, Germany, warehouse workers will march on the site of Amazon’s HQ to launch the Amazon Workers Against Surveillance;
  • In Toronto, Canada, postal workers and the Warehouse Worker Resource Center will march on the Brampton Amazon facility to demand better wages;
  • In Buenos Aires, Argentina, activists will take action at the Axion oil refinery against Amazon’s services to fossil fuel corporations like BP; and
  • In Warsaw, Poland, a broad coalition of unions and environmentalists will take to the streets to protest Amazon’s worker repression and arbitrary firings at its warehouses.

Sharan Burrow, general secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation, said Friday that people worldwide are demonstrating “to end corporate impunity, to end the scandal of [Amazon’s] monopoly power.”

“They pay little or no tax, yet their obscene wealth is actually untrammeled,” Burrow continued. She emphasized the need to “stan[d] with Amazon workers every day” and thanked unions for their solidarity.

Amazon is headquartered in the United States, but its reach is global—with a massive workforce of roughly 1.3 million people, excluding countless others employed by the company’s subcontractors, and a carbon footprint larger than two-thirds of the world’s countries. Resistance to one of the most powerful corporate empires in history—founded by Jeff Bezos, currently the second-richest person on the planet—is also transnational.

“Amazon is everywhere, involved in almost every step of the global economy, but we are too,” explains the coalition, which includes Progressive International, UNI Global Union, Amazon Workers International, and dozens of other trade unions and civil society organizations working to stamp out inequality, tax evasion, and climate injustice.

“At every link in this chain of abuse, we are fighting back,” the coalition says. “We are workers and activists divided by geography and our role in the global economy but united in our commitment to Make Amazon Pay fair wages, its taxes, and for its impact on the planet.”

Campaigners from the United Kingdom, Spain, Italy, Argentina, Bangladesh, Germany, Cambodia, and Poland described how “Amazon just doesn’t give a shit”—exploiting workers and consumers, despoiling the environment, dodging taxes, and using its ill-gotten gains to wield enormous, anti-democratic influence over lawmakers.

The Covid-19 pandemic, in particular, “has exposed how Amazon places profits ahead of workers, society, and our planet,” the Make Amazon Pay coalition notes on its website.

Last year, for instance, Amazon became a trillion-dollar corporation. According to a video on the coalition’s website, “Amazon’s wealth has increased so much during the pandemic that its owners could pay all 1.3 million of its employees a $690,000 Covid bonus and still be as rich as they were in 2020.”

Bezos—who paid a 1.1% true tax rate between 2006 and 2018, according to a June report from ProPublica—also became the first individual to amass a personal fortune of more than $200 billion. He surpassed that figure in August 2020, just a few months after he eliminated the short-lived hazard pay of Amazon employees, who have continued toiling at great risk to their own health.

In addition, Amazon’s union-busting tactics were on full display earlier this year in Bessemer, Alabama during a drive organized by the Retail Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU).

Union organizers at the Bessemer warehouse came up short in the April election, but an official at the National Labor Relations Board has recommended invalidating those results and mandating a new vote after RWDSU filed nearly two dozen complaints alleging that Amazon illegally threatened employees with loss of pay and benefits, installed and surveilled an unlawful ballot collection box, and expelled pro-union workers from so-called “captive audience” meetings during which management argued against unionization.

In addition to ruthlessly squashing unionization efforts, Amazon denies governments revenue “through its world-beating efforts at tax dodging,” says the Make Amazon Pay Coalition.

“Like all major corporations, Amazon’s success would be impossible without the public institutions that citizens built together over generations,” the coalition stresses. “But instead of giving back to the societies that helped it grow,” the e-commerce giant “paid just 1.2% tax in the U.S.” in 2019, “up from 0% the two previous years.”

As far as pollution goes, the coalition points out, “Amazon’s growing delivery and cloud computer businesses are accelerating global climate breakdown.”

Bezos, meanwhile, said in July—immediately following his first suborbital flight, which he admitted was paid for by Amazon workers—that he thinks it would be a good idea to relocate industrial production to outer space, threatening, however unrealistically, to push capitalism’s detrimental impacts beyond Earth’s atmosphere.

A study published earlier this month found that “the emissions from a single billionaire spaceflight would exceed the lifetime emissions of someone in the poorest billion people” in the world.

Highlighting Amazon’s environmental destruction here on planet Earth, Extinction Rebellion blocked a total of 15 fulfillment centers throughout Europe on Black Friday, in solidarity with striking workers.

In its list of demands, the Make Amazon Pay coalition says that it is fighting for better pay for Amazon’s workers—”in line with the increasing wealth of the corporation, including hazard pay and premium pay for peak times”—as well as improved working conditions and benefits, such as paid sick leave “so that no worker has to choose between their health or their job.”

The coalition also seeks to protect Amazon workers’ rights to organize as well as unions’ rights to promote the interests of employees—without fear of surveillance and retaliation, throughout the company’s global supply chains.

In addition, the campaign is pushing for Amazon to commit to zero emissions by 2030 and to eliminate “tax abuse through profit shifting, loopholes, and the use of tax havens,” among other demands to safeguard consumers’ data.

“Amazon is not alone in these bad practices,” the coalition acknowledges, “but it sits at the heart of a failed system that drives the inequality, climate breakdown, and democratic decay that scar our age.”

This work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)
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As Climate Summit Ends, Activists Say ‘Hollowed-Out’ Deal Leaves 1.5°C Goal ‘On Life Support’

Critics also warn that “COP26 will be remembered as a betrayal of Global South countries—abandoned to the climate crisis with no money for the energy transition, adaptation, or loss and damage.”

By Jessica Corbett.  Published 11-13-2021 by Common Dreams

COP26 president Alok Sharma. Photo: Bank of England/flickr/CC

Faced with new research showing a significant gap between current commitments to cut planet-heating emissions and the Paris agreement’s 1.5°C target, negotiators from nearly 200 countries on Saturday struck a deal that critics say falls short of what is needed to tackle the climate emergency.

The agreement came out of COP26, the United Nations climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland that was scheduled to wrap up Friday. As talks spilled over into Saturday, global campaigners expressed frustration with what they called “a clear betrayal by rich nations.” Continue reading

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Fossil Fuel Lobbyists Have Larger Presence at COP26 Than Any Single Country: Report

“COP26 is being sold as the place to raise ambition, but it’s crawling with fossil fuel lobbyists whose only ambition is to stay in business.”

By Jake Johnson.  Published 11-8-2021 by Common Dreams

Glasgow Green – march for the climate on November 6, 2021. Photo: The Left/flickr/CC

A coalition of watchdog groups estimated Monday that fossil fuel industry representatives have a larger presence at COP26 than officials from any single country, a finding that further intensified environmentalists’ concerns about the legitimacy of the high-stakes climate summit.

After pouring over a 1,600-page United Nations list of approved COP26 attendees, the coalition led by Global Witness published an analysis showing that at least 503 fossil fuel lobbyists have been admitted to the summit in Glasgow, Scotland. Continue reading

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Big Pharma Spent ‘Horrifying’ Sums of Money to Weaken Drug Price Reform

The industry is expected to break its lobbying record after spending tens of millions of dollars to undermine a popular proposal to reduce prescription drug costs.

By Kenny Stancil.  Published 11-5-2021 by Common Dreams

Photo: Daniel Foster/flickr/CC

While progressive advocates are still optimistic that a limited drug pricing provision will be included in the Build Back Better Act, the Washington Post on Friday detailed the “massive, months-long advertising, lobbying, and political donation blitz” that Big Pharma and its allies carried out to kill a stronger and overwhelmingly popular proposal that would have done more to protect Americans from the industry’s deadly price gouging.

As Common Dreams has reported, pharmaceutical corporations and private health insurers spent $171 million on lobbying through the first nine months of the year, the most of any industry. Big Pharma’s 1,600 lobbyists outnumber members of Congress by a ratio of three to one. Continue reading

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Secret IRS Files Reveal How Much the Ultrawealthy Gained by Shaping Trump’s “Big, Beautiful Tax Cut”

Billionaire business owners deployed lobbyists to make sure Trump’s 2017 tax bill was tailored to their benefit. Confidential IRS records show the windfall that followed.

by Justin Elliott and Robert Faturechi. Published 8-11-2021 by ProPublica

Image: Pixafree.org/CC BY-SA 3.0

 

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In November 2017, with the administration of President Donald Trump rushing to get a massive tax overhaul through Congress, Sen. Ron Johnson stunned his colleagues by announcing he would vote “no.”

Making the rounds on cable TV, the Wisconsin Republican became the first GOP senator to declare his opposition, spooking Senate leaders who were pushing to quickly pass the tax bill with their thin majority. “If they can pass it without me, let them,” Johnson declared. Continue reading

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‘Bombshell’ Secret Footage of ExxonMobil Lobbyists Sparks Calls for Action by Congress

“We demand Congress immediately investigate Exxon and fossil fuel companies’ climate crimes, and make polluters pay for their destruction,” said a 350.org campaigner.

By Jessica Corbett, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 6-30-2021

Keith McCoy, a senior director in ExxonMobil’s Washington, D.C. government affairs team, was secretly recorded by Unearthed, Greenpeace U.K.’s investigative journalism arm. (Photo: Screenshot/Unearthed via Channel 4 News)

While ExxonMobil’s decades of sowing public doubt about climate science and the impact of fossil fuels have provoked various lawsuits, secretly recorded videos released Wednesday expose how the company continues to fight against U.S. efforts to tackle climate emergency.

Published by Unearthed, Greenpeace U.K.’s investigative journalism arm, and the British Channel 4 News, the footage of ExxonMobil lobbyists sparked new calls for congressional action to hold the oil and gas giant accountable. Continue reading

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‘A Fitting End’: Hours Before Leaving Office, Trump Quietly Revokes Order Restricting Lobbying by Former Federal Officials

“Great summary of Trump’s many farcical ‘drain the swamp’ betrayals.”

By Jake Johnson, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 1-20-2021

Photo: Palácio do Planalto/flickr/CC

Making one final mockery of his 2016 campaign promise to “drain the swamp,” President Donald Trump early Wednesday quietly revoked his own executive order barring administration officials from lobbying the agencies for which they worked for five years after leaving government, freeing up a potential line of employment for outgoing White House staff.

While riddled with loopholes and deficiencies, the executive order represented one of the few concrete actions Trump took during his four years in office to rein in the corruption that has long been a hallmark of the U.S. federal government. On the whole, Trump contributed massively to that corruption during his tenure, which one watchdog group argues was “marked by self-interest, profiteering at the highest levels, and more than 3,700 conflicts of interest.” Continue reading

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