1787 – The Free African Society is founded in Philadelphia by Richard Allen and Absalom Jones
It was the second African American mutual-aid society to open in the United States. Mutual-aid societies are considered the precursors to formal democratic cooperatives.
From its Preamble: “a society should be formed, without regard to religious tenets, provided the persons lived an orderly and sober life, in order to support one another in sickness, and for the benefit of their widows and fatherless children.” https://archive.org/stream/economiccooper00duborich#page/21/mode/1up
1937 – Supreme Court ruling against union organizing
The Court ruled that congress could “protect interstate commerce from the paralyzing consequences of industrial war” (labor organizing).
National Labor relations Board v. Jones & Laughlin Steel Corp., 301 U.S. 1, 81 L. ED 893, 57 Sup. Ct. 615
1945 – Death of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, 32nd President of the U.S.
“The real truth is…that a financial element in the large centers has owned the government ever since the days of Andrew Jackson.” http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/162689-the-real-truth-of-the-matter-is-as-you-and
“The Bill of Rights was put into the Constitution not only to protect minorities against intolerance of majorities, but to protect majorities against the enthronement of minorities.”
From The Public Papers and Addresses of Franklin D. Roosevelt 366 (1941)
Roosevelt also proposed a “Second Bill of Rights” that focused on economic freedoms. “We have come to a clear realization of the fact that true individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence.” The rights included a job, adequate income to meet basic needs, housing, medical care, and education. It also included rights protecting businesspersons from unfair competition and monopolies, and enabling farmers to raise and sell products and earn enough income to have a decent living. The full list is at http://www.ushistory.org/documents/economic_bill_of_rights.htm
1743 – Birth of Thomas Jefferson, 3rd President of the United States – on banks and judicial review
On banks: “And I sincerely believe, with you, that banking establishments are more dangerous than standing armies; and that the principle of spending money to be paid by posterity, under the name of funding, is but swindling futurity on a large scale.”
On Judicial Review (the doctrine that all legislative and executive actions are subject to the review for constitutionality by the judicial branch), Jefferson warned that it would make the Constitution nothing but “a mere thing of wax in the hands of the Judiciary, which they may twist and shape into any form they please.”
1752 – First successful cooperative organized in the United States in Philadelphia
Benjamin Franklin formed the Philadelphia Contributionship for the Insurance of Houses from Loss by Fire.
The company remains in existence, although its web site notes “The company’s most recent change is structural: The Philadelphia Contributionship Mutual Holding Company is the overall umbrella organization which owns the insurance companies and Vector Security Holdings.” http://www.contributionship.com/history/index.html
2020 – “American Workers Get a 4-Month Safety Net; Wall Street Gets a 4 to 5-Year Bailout” article posted
“Last year’s repo bailout by the New York Fed is still ongoing but it is now just one of a mind-numbing number of programs the New York Fed has rolled out to bail out Wall Street banks and trading houses. Once again, the money is flowing effortlessly to Wall Street in the trillions of dollars while 10,000 people waited in lines last Thursday in San Antonio, Texas in 90-degree heat to get food from a food pantry.
“The Wall Street programs are not going to last for just 4 months or to the end of the year as are the CARES Act’s programs for workers. They are going to last longer than they did during the 2008 financial crash.
“Adding outrageous insult to injury, Congress saw fit in the CARES Act to provide $454 billion of taxpayers’ money to go into this alphabet soup of Wall Street programs to backstop any losses they suffer. Once again, just as in 2008, Wall Street has privatized the profits for the one percent and now the losses will be socialized to workers on Main Street, where 16 million job losses have occurred in just the past three weeks.”
1873 – “Slaughterhouse Cases” – Supreme Court favors corporate protections over civil rights
Combining three cases, this single decision was the first Supreme Court interpretation of the 14th Amendment, enacted in 1868. The Court ruled very narrowly – concluding that individuals possessed federal rights of citizenship, but not state rights of citizenship. Justices opposed the application of the Bill of Rights to the states for fear that the Court would become a “perpetual censor upon all of legislation of the States” related to civil rights.
The contradiction of this decision was stunning. The same court was during this era a “perpetual censor” of state laws through its use of the Commerce Clause to invalidate scores of democratically enacted local and state laws promoting safety, health and local businesses in defense of national corporate interests. This narrow interpretation of the 14th Amendment set back efforts for civil rights and labor rights for decades.
1976 – Death of William Henry Hastie, Jr., American, lawyer, judge, educator, public official, and advocate for the civil rights of African Americans
“Democracy is a process, not a static condition. It is becoming, rather than being. It can be easily lost, but is never finally won.”
1865 – Assassination of Abraham Lincoln
“The money power preys upon the nation in times of peace and conspires against it in times of adversity. It is more despotic than monarchy, more insolent than autocracy, more selfish than bureaucracy.”
Article 1, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution provides Congress with the power to “coin” or create money. Under the Lincoln administration, the US Government issued 450 million “Greenbacks” – interest and inflation-free money – after private banks refused to lend the government funds to pay for the war unless the government agreed to pay exorbitantly high interest payments. Greenbacks weren’t government bill, bonds or any other debt-bearing notes. They were actual US money.
“The privilege of creating and issuing money is not only the supreme prerogative of government, but it is the government’s greatest creative opportunity. The financing of all public enterprise, and the conduct of the treasury will become matters of practical administration. Money will cease to be master and will then become servant of humanity.”
1975 — Death of Halena Wilson, president of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters Ladies Auxiliary
The Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, was the first official independent Black union. Wilson and the union’s President, A. Philip Randolph (ironically, born on this day in 1889), wrote about, promoted, taught and organized democratic economic cooperatives to keep resources recycling in the Black community.
2011 – Posted poem, “Persona Ficta,” by Jena Osman
a corporation is to a person as a person is to a machine
amicus curiae we know them as good and bad, they too are sheep and goats
ventriloquizing the ghostly fiction.
a corporation is to a body as a body is to a puppet
putting it in caricature, if there are natural persons then there are those who are
not that, buying candidates. there are those who are strong on the ground and
then weak in the air. weight shifts to the left leg while the prone hand sets down;
2015 – Postal worker lands gyrocopter at US Capital to protest influence of big money in politics
A Florida postal worker, Doug Hughes, carried 535 letters – one for each member of Congress – when he landed his one-person gyrocopter on the US Capital grounds. He was arrested before he could make his delivery of letters calling for campaign finance reform and sentenced to 120 days in prison.
“As long as law recognizes corporations as people, they have the same human rights we have, along with perks we don’t have such as limited liability. Combine those rights with their treasuries, and multi-national corporations have become super-sized people rolling over actual human beings and the institutions designed to protect us.”
1862 – Emancipation Proclamation in DC signed by President Lincoln, but slaveowners paid reparations
Slaves are freed in DC but former slave owners are reimbursed for slaves given up. Whites are paid over $1 million in reparations for “lost property.” After all, the US Constitution established that slaves were “property,” not human beings. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O2-q-RBiWhk
1931 – Birth of Ronnie Dugger, co- founder, Alliance for Democracy; Texas Observer founding editor
“We are ruled by Big Business and Big Government as its paid hireling, and we know it. The big corporations and the centimillionaires and billionaires have taken daily control of our work, our pay, our housing, our healthcare, our pension funds, our banks and savings deposits, our public lands, our airwaves, our elections and our very governments…The issue is not issues, the issue is the system.” [emphasis added]
1995 – Presentation of “Certificate of Dissolution: Weyerhaeuser Corporation”
The public presentation was part of a “guerilla theatre” gathering outside the home of Weyerhaeuser Corporation CEO George Weyerhaeuser as an example of how to reframe an issue from one of corporate harm into that of contesting corporate authority and asserting the right of the people to define the very existence of corporations.
After providing a long list of political and ecological abuses, the “Certificate” reads:
“The people of the U.S. retain the unalterable right to revoke the charter of corporations which violate the common good. Originally, after the American Revolution, charters were rarely granted, and often revoked—with their assets distributed to compensate for damages and the corporate owners held accountable for their criminal acts. Today we are re-invoking this right. In addition, the inalienable rights of the existence of numerous species of life upon this Earth demand this revocation. Therefore be it ordained, by the powers of the laws of Washington State and the higher laws of Nature, that the corporate charter of Weyerhaeuser be revoked and the said company dissolved.” http://www.ratical.org/corporations/Weyerhaeuser.html
2018 – Pulitizer Prizes announced: “Sound of the Bench” by Ted Hearn was runner up in music category — lyrics inspired by corporate personhood
“‘Sound From the Bench,’ a cantata for choir, electric guitars and drums, with texts drawn from U.S. Supreme Court oral arguments and inspired by the odd idea of corporate personhood. This is the work that caught the attention of the Pulitzer people.”
1905 – Lochner v. New York [198 U.S. 45] Supreme Court decision – use of the 14th Amendment to invalidate government regulation of corporations
The decision was one of the most controversial in the history of the Court. It concluded that “liberty of contract” was inferred in the “due process” clause of the 14th Amendment (originally intended to apply to freed black slaves). The specific case involved the state of New York seeking to limit working hours to 10 per day and 60 each week. The Court rejected the claim that the law was needed to protect the health of workers, asserting that the labor law was an “”unreasonable, unnecessary and arbitrary interference with the right and liberty of the individual to contract.” In other words, the majority of Justices felt that the law inhibited the constitutional right of workers and employers to make contracts freely.
The implications were devastating. The decision shielded corporations from vast forms of government regulation. The Court invalidated approximately 200 economic regulations from 1905 until the mid-1930’s passed by legislators — usually under this interpretation of the due process clause of the 14th Amendment
2018 – The EU is trying to decide whether to grant robots personhood
“Under an ongoing EU proposal, it might just be the bot itself. A 2017 European Parliament report floated the idea of granting special legal status, or “electronic personalities,” to smart robots, specifically those which (or should that be who?) can learn, adapt, and act for themselves. This legal personhood would be similar to that already assigned to corporations around the world, and would make robots, rather than people, liable for their self-determined actions, including for any harm they might cause. The motion suggests:
“‘Creating a specific legal status for robots in the long run, so that at least the most sophisticated autonomous robots could be established as having the status of electronic persons responsible for making good any damage they may cause, and possibly applying electronic personality to cases where robots make autonomous decisions or otherwise interact with third parties independently.’”
Related: Experts Sign Open Letter Slamming Europe’s Proposal to Recognize Robots as Legal Persons
“Over 150 experts in AI, robotics, commerce, law, and ethics from 14 countries have signed an open letter denouncing the European Parliament’s proposal to grant personhood status to intelligent machines. The EU says the measure will make it easier to figure out who’s liable when robots screw up or go rogue, but critics say it’s too early to consider robots as persons—and that the law will let manufacturers off the liability hook.”
1996 – Publication this month of “Corporations for the Seventh Generation: Changing the Ground Rules, Part 1” by Jane Anne Morris, corporate anthropologist and POCLAD principal
- corporations were required to have a clear purpose, to be fulfilled but not exceeded;
- corporations’ licenses to do business were revocable by the state legislature if they exceeded or did not fulfill their chartered purpose(s);
- the state legislature could revoke a corporation’s charter for a particular reason, or for no reason at all;
- the act of incorporation did not relieve corporate management or stockholders/owners of responsibility or liability for corporate acts;
- as a matter of course, corporation officers, directors, or agents could be held criminally liable for violating the law;
- state (not federal) courts heard cases where corporations or their agents were accused of breaking the law or harming the public;
- directors of the corporation were required to come from among stockholders;
- corporations had to have their headquarters and meetings in the state where their principal place of business was located;
- corporation charters were granted for a specific period of time, like 20 or 30 years (instead of being granted “in perpetuity,” as is now the practice);
- corporations were prohibited from owning stock in other corporations in order to prevent them from extending their power inappropriately;
- corporations’ real estate holdings were limited to what was necessary to carry out their specific purpose(s);
- corporations were prohibited from making any political contributions, direct or indirect;
- corporations were prohibited from making charitable or civic donations outside of their specific purposes;
- state legislatures set the rates that corporations could charge for their products or services;
- all corporation records and documents were open to the legislature or the state attorney general?
All of these provisions were once law in the state of Wisconsin. And similar ones existed in most other states.”