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Big Ideas on Corporate Accountability and Global

by Russell Mokhiber and Robert Weissman Wednesday, Aug. 09, 2000 at 12:47 PM

In an era where corporations trample across the globe with minimal restraint, and citizen movements around the world are on their heels, it is natural -- and necessary -- for those trying to check corporate power to think defensively and, when they do reflect on affirmative proposals, incrementally.

Sometimes, it is important to think big.

In an era where corporations trample across the globe with

minimal restraint, and citizen movements around the world

are on their heels, it is natural -- and necessary -- for

those trying to check corporate power to think defensively

and, when they do reflect on affirmative proposals,


But it is important not to be overly constrained by the

existing balance of forces. If they are to engage, energize

and mobilize large numbers of people, citizen movements need

to be animated by positive visions, as well. And while there

is a role for utopian outlines in suggesting what society

could be, even more important are concrete medium-term

proposals that suggest attainable aspirations and purposeful


One would not ordinarily look to the U.S. Congress for such

ideas, but two members of the U.S. House of Representatives

have stepped forward to offer sweeping proposals to regulate

U.S.-based multinational corporations' global operations and

to reorient the global economy to the pursuit of sustainable

development, not corporate greed.

Representative Cynthia McKinney, D-Georgia, has introduced

the Corporate Code of Conduct Act (H.R. 4596) and

Representative Bernie Sanders, an independent from Vermont,

has introduced the Global Sustainable Development Resolution

(H.Res 479). (You can find the bills at


"It is time we reclaim the global economy for the people who

make it work," insists McKinney, "and stop pandering to

corporate interests who build their empires on the backs of

the innocent."

"Corporate globalization is forcing men and women around

the world to run a destructive race to the bottom -- a

competition in which workers, communities and entire

countries are forced to cut wages, environmental

protections, and social programs to attract footloose

capital," says Sanders.

To address these ills, McKinney's bill would require all

U.S.-based corporations with more than 20 employees abroad

to enact a code of conduct. Significantly, the code also

would apply to the companies' subsidiaries, subcontractors,

affiliates, joint ventures, partners, or licensees --

meaning companies like Nike would not be able to disdain

responsibility for the practices of their subcontractors.

The code would establish a floor for corporate behavior,

requiring companies in their overseas operations to:

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