Note: This article is a sidebar to this issue's feature story, "In Search of Solidarity."
On May 19, 1999, environmental and labor leaders confronted CEO Charles Hurwitz in Houston to demand that his Maxxam Corporation, which owns Kaiser Aluminum and Pacific Lumber Company, be held accountable for its impact on working people, communities and the environment.
By clear-cutting ancient redwoods in Northern California, and by locking out striking steelworkers in five cities, the Maxxam Corporation and its subsidiaries, Pacific Lumber Company and Kaiser Aluminum Corporation, have become icons of corporate irresponsibility. Recognizing that we have a common interest in making corporations more accountable for their behavior world wide, environmental and labor leaders have formed the Alliance for Sustainable Jobs and the Environment and circulated the following statement, dubbed the "Houston Principles":
- The spectacular accumulation of wealth by corporations and America's most affluent during the past two decades has come with a huge price tag.
- Corporations have become more powerful than the government entities designed to regulate them.
- The goal of a giant, global corporation is to maximize wealth and to wield political power on its own behalf. Too often, corporate leaders regard working people, communities, and the natural world as resources to be used and thrown away.
- Recognizing the tremendous stakes, labor unions and environmental advocates are beginning to recognize our common ground. Together we can challenge illegitimate corporate authority over our country's and communities' governing decisions.
- While we may not agree on everything, we are determined to accelerate our efforts to make alliances as often as possible.
We believe that:
- A healthy future for the economy and the environment requires a dynamic alliance between labor, management, and environmental advocates.
- The same forces that threaten economic and biological sustainability undermine the democratic process.
- The drive for short-term profits without regard for long-term sustainability hurts working people, communities, and the earth.
- Labor, environmental and community groups need to take action to organize as a counter-balance to abusive corporate power.
The environmental and labor advocates who have signed these principles resolve to work together to:
- Remind the public that the original purpose behind the creation of corporations was to serve the public interest — namely working people, communities, and the earth.
- Seek stricter enforcement of labor laws and advocate for new laws to guarantee working people their right to form unions and their right to bargain collectively.
- Make workplaces, communities and the planet safer by reducing waste and greenhouse gas emissions.
- Demand that global trade agreements include enforceable labor and environmental standards.
- Promote forward-thinking business models that allow for sustainability over the long term while protecting working people, communities, and the environment.
This ground-breaking alliance of labor and environmentalists invites all people to join with us in a spirit of creative cooperation. Together, we can forge a partnership that protects people and the planet..