The Multinational Monitor

  April 2004 - VOLUME 25 - NUMBER 4


B E H I N D    T H E    L I N E S

Tyson Fix OK'd

The historic $1.28 billion jury verdict against Tyson Fresh Meats for fixing cattle markets was thrown out in April, by a federal judge in Birmingham, Alabama [see "Justice on the Range," Multinational Monitor, March 2004].

The case turned on independent cattle ranchers' allegation that Tyson, through a range of contractual maneuvers, has secured itself a long-term captive supply of cattle. This came at the expense of independent ranchers, who could not find buyers on the open market, and in violation of federal law, the jury found.

The Organization for Competitive Markets (OCM, which represents independent cattlemen and women around the country) expressed "extreme disappointment" with the judge's decision to overturn the verdict in Pickett v. Tyson Fresh Meats.

Attorneys for the 30,000 cattle rancher plaintiffs have said that they will appeal the ruling.

Judge Lyle Strom left intact the finding that captive supplies harmed all cash sellers of fed cattle to Tyson in the amount of nearly $1.3 billion.

But the judge found that there were legitimate business reasons for Tyson to maintain a captive supply. He found that Tyson was guaranteed a consistent, reliable supply of cattle and that Tyson needed captive supplies to meet the competition where other packers engaged in the practice.

The ruling "does an extreme disservice to going forward with more open and competitive markets in the cattle industry that is unencumbered by abuses in market power," says Fred Stokes, OCM president. "The court did not dispute the fact that the practice harms cattle producers. It also did not dispute the fact that cattle quality was lower with captive supply cattle and higher with spot market cattle. We think that the jury verdict is entitled to far more respect by the judiciary."

Gaping Pay Gap Grows

CEOs at big companies in the United States are earning more than 300 times the pay of the average U.S. worker.

After declining for the last two years, the CEO-worker pay ratio surpassed 300-to-1 in 2003. In 2002, the ratio stood at 282-to-1. In 1982, it was just 42-to-1.

Business Week's 54th Annual Executive Compensation Survey, published in April, found that the average large company CEO received compensation totaling $8.1 million in 2003, up 9.1 percent from the previous year.

According to the Boston-based United for a Fair Economy (UFE), from 1990 to 2003, CEO pay jumped 313 percent, while corporate profits climbed 128 percent. During the same period, average worker pay rose 49 percent, just above inflation, which rose 41 percent.

If the U.S. minimum wage had increased as quickly as CEO pay since 1990, according to UFE, it would today be $15.71 per hour, more than three times the current minimum wage of $5.15 an hour.

"While workers are increasingly anxious about their job security and how they will pay the rising costs of everything from health insurance to housing, from college to gasoline," says UFE's Scott Klinger, "corporate executives continue to distance themselves from the cares and worries of those they lead. It sends a poor message to demand cost cutting from the factory floor, while costs in the executive suite are left to soar."

Top 10 Greenwashers

Greenwashing -- using disinformation to portray organizations as environmentally friendly -- has become normalized.

In an effort to keep the public's focus on how it is being manipulated by corporate greenwashers, The Green Life, formerly Earthday Resources for Living Green, a Boston-based organization that promotes simplicity, health and sustainability in daily life, profiled the 10 worst greenwashers of 2003 in "Don't Be Fooled," a report issued on April Fool's Day.

"We're all familiar with greenwash at some level," says Geoff Johnson, program coordinator of The Green Life. "It shows up on product packaging in the form of vague labels like Žeco-friendly' and Žall-natural,' it's in advertisements that show SUVs at home in the wilderness, and it's in the way corporations churn out environmental rhetoric about Žsound science' and Žsustainability.'"

The Green Life's 10 worst greenwashers of 2003 include:

  • Avalon Natural Products, for labeling a range of personal care products as "Certified Organic," though they contain chemicals and synthetic preservatives and are composed primarily of water;
  • Royal Caribbean International, for giving itself an environmental award -- even as it faced federal prosecution for cruise ship pollution;
  • BP, for claiming to care about the environment while supporting drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge;
  • The American Chemistry Council, for planning a covert public relations campaign to undermine precautionary principle initiatives in California;
  • Starbucks, for lagging on its commitments to fair trade coffee
  • Subaru, for reclassifying the Outback from a car to a light truck, thus skirting fuel economy standards.

The other greenwashers on the top 10 list are: Project Learning Tree, Salmon of the Americas (a front group for the farmed salmon industry), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Monsanto.