Tag Archives: lobbyists

Direct democracy can force governments to better represent the people – but it doesn’t always work out

The Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade has led to a push for citizens initiatives to enshrine abortion rights.
Jeff Kowalsky/AFP via Getty Images

 

Susan Stokes, University of Chicago

In August 2022, a statewide referendum in Kansas saw citizens overwhelmingly reject a plan to insert anti-abortion language into the state’s constitution. It comes as a slew of similar votes on abortion rights are planned in the coming months – putting the issue directly to the people after the Supreme Court struck down the landmark Roe v. Wade ruling.

But are referendums and citizens initiatives good for democracy? It may seem like an odd question to pose on International Day for Democracy, especially at a time when many feel democracy is imperiled both in the U.S. and around the world. Continue reading

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‘A Watershed Moment’: CA Senate Passes Historic Bill to Empower Fast Food Workers

If Gov. Gavin Newsom signs it, one union leader said the measure “will be the most important piece of labor law to pass in decades.”

By Jake Johnson  Published 8-30-2022 by Common Dreams

Fast food workers rally outside California Capitol. Screenshot: KCRA

In the face of fierce corporate opposition, the California Senate on Monday passed a landmark bill aimed at giving the state’s roughly 550,000 fast food workers a say over their working conditions, hours, and wages in an industry rife with abuse.

If Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom signs it into law, the Fast Food Recovery Act (AB 257) would make California the first state in the U.S. to establish a council tasked with setting industrywide workplace standards for the fast food sector. The 10-member council would include workers and worker advocates as well as business representatives and state officials. Continue reading

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Sinema Received Over $500K From Private Equity Before Shielding Industry From Tax Hikes

“Remember the days when taking half a million bucks from an industry, and then passing legislation that only benefits that industry, while passing the costs onto everyone else, would be called corruption?” asked one critic. “Today it’s just lobbying as usual.”

By Kenny Stancil  Published 8-8-2022 by Common Dreams

A mobile billboard criticizing Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) is seen in Washington, D.C. on August 7, 2022. (Photo: Patriotic Millionaires)

Senate Democrats passed a pared-backed reconciliation package on Sunday, but only after a pair of widely supported provisions that would have made it harder for Wall Street tycoons to reduce their tax bills were removed at the behest of Sen. Kyrsten Sinema—the right-wing Arizona Democrat who has taken more than $500,000 in campaign contributions from private equity executives during the current election cycle.

“Remember the days when taking half a million bucks from an industry, and then passing legislation that only benefits that industry, while passing the costs onto everyone else, would be called corruption?” Brown University political economist Mark Blyth asked on social media. “Today it’s just lobbying as usual.” Continue reading

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Inside the Democrats’ climate deal with the devil

The new climate package furthers the US’ most profligate pastimes: drilling oil and driving big cars

By Aaron White  Published 8-2-2022 by openDemocracy

Senator Joe Manchin Photo: Third Way Think Tank/flickr/CC

Last week, Joe Manchin, the West Virginia senator whose decisive vote in the evenly split upper house has led some to brand him ‘President Manchin’, and Senate Majority leader Chuck Schumer surprised even the most clued-in political junkies by announcing support for a climate bill that had been declared dead just several weeks before.

The 725-page legislation seemed a brief respite from a summer of extreme weather – a brutal heatwave and flooding across the US – as well as soaring inflation, a cost of living crisis and radical Supreme Court rulings that overturned abortion rights and limited the regulatory power of the Environmental Protection Agency. Continue reading

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Big Pharma Flooding Airwaves With Disinformation to Kill Drug Price Reform

“Powerful interest groups out there don’t want this legislation to succeed, so they’re pouring dark money into efforts to stop it,” said one Democratic senator.

By Jake Johnson  Published 7-29-2022 by Common Dreams

The group American Commitment is running ads in several states attacking Democrats’ plan to lower prescription drug prices. (Photo: Screengrab/American Commitment)

While its thousands of lobbyists work fervently on Capitol Hill, the pharmaceutical industry is flooding the airwaves in several states with deceptive ads in a last-ditch campaign to block Senate Democrats’ plan to curb the unchecked pricing power of drug corporations.

Included as part of a reconciliation package negotiated by Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), the proposal would require Medicare to negotiate the prices of a small number of drugs directly with pharmaceutical companies, which can currently drive up costs as they please—boosting their profits at the expense of patients. Continue reading

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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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