Ford Motor Company ran over the competition to take the Grand Prize of the Corporate Watch Earth Day 2000 Greenwash Sweepstakes Awards. The Awards, announced by the Corporate Watch website, www.corpwatch.org, are given for public relations efforts that make polluters appear environmentally friendly.
"Congratulations, Ford," said Amit Srivastava, a Greenwash Sweepstakes Award judge. "Your exclusive sponsorship of Time magazine's 'Heroes for the Planet' special issue makes the magazine look like a brochure for an auto company. Well done."
Greenwash judge Kenny Bruno added that "Ford deserves the Grand Prize not only for the massive greenwash onslaught launched around Earth Day but for having the chutzpah to attempt to cast a positive light on its environmental record, which is one of the worst of any auto maker."
Ford recently announced that it will spend as much money on its environmental image as it would on promoting a new model of automobile.
The runners up in the Greenwash Sweepstakes include James "Bonds" Wolfensohn, President of the World Bank, for claiming that World Bank bonds are socially responsible investments.
Another runner up is Monsanto and the Council for Biotechnology Information, for their "Greenwash with a Guilt Trip." The pro-biotechnology Council, which represents Monsanto and six other biotech companies, tugs the heart strings of the American public by promising to feed the world while actually promoting products that destroy family farms and reduce access to food.
Other runners up included Shell, Chevron and Unocal, while Time magazine received a bonus award for selling its Earth Day issue and its kids magazine's environmental coverage exclusively to Ford.
The booby prize was awarded to ExxonMobil.
"We're very disappointed in ExxonMobil," said Joshua Karliner, a Greenwash Judge. "Their greenwash is lame. Next year we expect to see at least a good faith effort to cover up their environmentally destructive operations."
The greenwash judges conducted the sweepstakes by polling Corporate Watch's audience, and then ranking the nominations according to how beautiful, clever, insidious, infuriating, misleading and expensive the advertisements were. "We had a blast," said Judge Amit Srivastava. "We're definitely going to do it again next year."
'VOTE ENVIRONMENT' DEDICATES $7.4M TO CAMPAIGN. The League of Conservation Voters Education Fund (LCVEF) will spend $7.4 million to encourage candidates to address environmental issues and voters to find out where the candidates stand on such issues. TV ads were launched in Washington, D.C.; Austin, Texas; Nashville, Tenn.; and Atlanta, Ga.; highlighting threats from polluted air and water and inform viewers that "Who We Elect Matters," urging them to "Vote Environment." Through early summer, the ads will also air nationally on select cable stations and in Seattle, Wash.; Columbus, Ohio; Lansing, Mich.; Billings, Mont.; Sacramento, Calif.; and Minneapolis, Minn.
"Throughout the country, voters are paying more attention to issues that directly affect the quality of their lives, from the safety of the water they drink and the quality of the air they breathe, to suburban sprawl that is eating away at green space and increasing traffic congestion," said Deb Callahan, president of the LCVEF. "This is the year when the environment will emerge as a critical election issue -- an issue that candidates seeking all levels of elective office will be well -- served to address."
The LCVEF also launched a www.VoteEnvironment.org Web site that houses the television ads and encourages visitors to take an online pledge to ask the candidates where they stand on environmental issues and to "Vote Environment."
JANITORS WIN IN LA. Janitors overwhelmingly approved a new contract April 24, ending a three-week strike that Nancy Cleeland of the Los Angeles Times wrote is likely to be remembered as a watershed moment for Los Angeles labor. The successful strike gave a shot of energy to dozens of Los Angeles unions as they enter a summer of contract negotiations that will affect 300,000 workers, from teachers to bus drivers. "This is the beginning of a new era for organized labor," declared Mike Garcia, president of the Service Employees International Union, Local 1877, which represents 8,500 janitors in Los Angeles County.
While far from the $1-per-hour annual increase the union originally sought, the contract does raise wages by more than 25 percent over the next three years, plus an immediate $500 bonus. Contractors also will absorb any increases in health insurance costs. And by the end of the contract, all janitors will have five days of sick leave a year.
At times it took the intervention of Mayor Richard Riordan, Cardinal Roger M. Mahony, and Roger Maguire, one of the largest building owners in the county, to keep the negotiations going. On April 21, he threatened to make his own deal with the union if the contractors didn't meet the final union demand. To janitors, he emerged as a near hero.
Scores of unions supported the strikers by honoring picket lines, staffing food banks and raising money. About $118,000 was raised from 76 union leaders at an emergency meeting called by the county Federation of Labor.
Janitors unions are now striking in downtown San Diego and suburban Chicago, and strikes are possible soon in the Silicon Valley, Cleveland, Seattle and Milwaukee, said Stephen Lerner, who directs the building services division for the SEIU.
WHISTLEBLOWER CITES BUSH. A former Texas funeral home regulator has added Gov. George W. Bush to her lawsuit claiming she lost her job as executive director of the Texas Funeral Service Commission in February 1999 because she pursued allegations of violations committed by funeral homes owned by Houston's Service Corporation International, the world's largest funeral company. May's attorneys allege the governor has not been forthcoming about his knowledge of the matter. Last summer Bush got a judge to rule that he did not have to testify about his role in the case.
According to Robert Bryce, writing in Salon.com, the suit claims Bush and a handful of state legislators sprang to SCI's defense because the funeral company gave tens of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions to the politicians. SCI CEO Robert Waltrip has known the Bushes for three decades and SCI's political action committee gave Bush $35,000 for his 1998 campaign while Waltrip gave Bush $10,000 for his 1994 race. Waltrip also serves as a trustee for former President George Bush's presidential library and SCI gave more than $100,000 toward the construction of the library.
Last August, Bush issued an affidavit that said he had no "personal knowledge" of the issues surrounding the investigation into SCI and that he had no "conversations with SCI officials, agents or representatives" about the state's investigation, although SCI's own lobbyist, Johnnie B. Rogers, told reporters that he was in the office of Joe Allbaugh, Bush's chief of staff (and current campaign manager) on April 15, 1998, when Bush stopped by for a brief chat with Rogers and Waltrip, who had gone to Allbaugh's office to complain about May's investigation. Bush's claim of "no conversation" was also later contradicted by Bush himself in a press conference, and by Bush's press secretary, Linda Edwards, who acknowledged that the governor had an "exchange" with Waltrip during his April 15 visit to the governor's office.
CHINESE FOOD GLUT NO HELP TO US FARMERS. Normalized trade relations with China is being depicted in the grain belt of the Midwest as a potential boon for farmers depressed by low grain prices, but Charles W. McMillion noted in the March 15 issue of The Hill, the newspaper for Capitol Hill, that China has produced a glut of agricultural goods for a generation, with global surpluses for cereals and all other food commodity groups other than soy products. "There appears to be tremendous potential for China to drive agricultural prices lower and, as in virtually every manufacturing sector, to capture worldwide market share from US producers ... Even including non-foods agricultural products cotton, skins and hides, China recorded overall agricultural trade surpluses with the US in 1985, 1986, 1992, 1993 and again in 1999. The US has chronic agricultural trade deficits with China in two-thirds of agricultural commodity groups from seafood, tobacco, sugar and cocoa, to vegetables, fruits and nuts, and animal parts. In 1999 the US also had a deficit in cotton trade with China and, in the last quarter of the year, even a deficit in cereals as unprecedented rice imports overtook meager wheat exports."
WORLD'S DRUG TRAFFICKERS THRIVE ON GLOBALIZATION, PRIVATIZATION. Drugs traffickers are thriving with economic globalization which makes money-laundering increasingly easy, the Paris-based Geopolitical Drugs Watch (GDW) reported April 20, according to Agence France-Press. "Around 350 to 400 billion dollars of drugs money was reintegrated into the global economy over the last year," according to the report, which said the staggering figures were a result of opening financial borders and increased privatization.