workers freedom

economics as if workers mattered

Criminal capitaists

A coupe of news stories say something about our “justice” system.

British Petroleum has just plead guilty to criminal charges of killing 11 workers and causing massive pollution in the Gulf of Mexico two years ago. They will pay $4.5 billion in fines and other payments for 14 charges including manslaughter and obstruction of justice (they initially lied about the scale of the disaster), but the company will not go to jail and it will not face the death penalty. (A couple of executives do face more charges personally, though.)

That’s how it is when bosses kill workers in their mad pursuit for greater profit and control. At best, they pay some money, but somehow their corporate “personhood” never leads to the company being shut down or its top executives going to jail. That sort of punishment is reserved for actual people — those of us who work for a living, and are for the most part incapable of wreaking the sort of havoc BP was responsible for her.

Meanwhile, the boss press is blaming the Bakery workers union for Hostess’ decision to close up shop, firing thousands of striking workers. Management ran the company into the ground, and then demanded that workers give up their pensions, their benefits, their pay and their working conditions in order to return the firm to profitability. The Teamsters blinked, capitulating to management’s demands for deep concessions, but the bakery workers (who took concessions in their last contract) had had enough of management’s bungling arrogance and insisted on a negotiated settlement.

So management took the company into bankruptcy, and now plans to sell off its assets and throw 18,500 workers on the unemployment lines. Managers, however, will continue drawing paychecks and probably even bonuses for months or years to come as they wind up the companies affairs, sell off its brands (the company makes Ding Dongs, Twinkies and Wonderbread, among other inedible crap) and equipment, and generally fatten themselves on the corpse of the jobs they have destroyed. It would make more sense to turn the company over to the workers, who after all created the assets, then to leave them in the hands of the wealth-destroyers, but such a prospect is unthinkable to the well-paid corporate lawyers who get appointed to judgeships.

Such are the wonders of corporate personhood. These “people” can kill workers and destroy communities, and walk away with pockets stuffed with cash. We are left to pick up the pieces.

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