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
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.”
1775 – Revolutionary War Begins
Shots fired and the subsequent battles of Lexington and Concord were the first military engagements of the American Revolutionary War. Colonists sought independence not only from the Crown (King), but also from the Crown’s military arm (Redcoats, which oppressed the colonists) and from the Crown’s economic/governing arms (Crown corporations, chartered by the King to conduct the King’s affairs in the colonies – which also oppressed). Examples included the Massachusetts Bay Company, the Carolina Company, the Maryland Company and the Virginia Company. The Revolution constitutionalized these corporations, transforming them into states or commonwealths. It also democratized “sovereignty” from rule by a single person to in principle We the People. In practice, only white, male property owners assumed power and rule.
2012 – Vermont Becomes First State to Call for Amendment Removing Corporations From Constitution
“[Other states] have passed resolutions against the Citizens United v. FEC ruling by the Supreme Court, but the Vermont resolution goes beyond simply overturning that case and aims to remove corporations from the constitution altogether and make clear that money is not speech and that campaign spending and political contributions can be regulated by government.”
1868 – Birth of John Hylan, New York City Mayor – corporations and their leaders like a giant octopus
Hylan was Mayor of New York from 1918-1925. He said, “The real menace of our republic is this invisible government, which, like a giant octopus, sprawls its slimy length over city, state and nation. Like the octopus of real life, it operates under cover of a self created screen…At the head of this octopus are the Rockefeller Standard Oil interests and a small group of powerful banking houses generally referred to as international bankers. The little coterie of powerful international bankers virtually run the United States government for their own selfish purposes. They practically control both political parties.”
1920 – Birth of Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens
In his 2014 book, “Six Amendments: How and Why We Should Change the Constitution,” Stevens proposed the following Constitutional Amendment:
“Neither the First Amendment nor any other provision of this Constitution shall be construed to prohibit the Congress or any state from imposing reasonable limits on the amount of money that candidates for public office, or their supporters, may spend in election campaigns.”
1796 – Birth of Thomas Earle, U.S. journalist and lawyer – on power of Supreme Court
Many citizens were outraged by the power of the Supreme Court, which they considered to be a direct attack on the sovereignty of “We the People.” In one protest pamphlet, journalist Thomas Earle penned:
“It is aristocracy and despotism, to have a body of officers, whose decisions are, for a long time, beyond the control of the people. The freemen of America ought not to rest contented, so long as their Supreme Court is a body of that character.”
1970 – Earth Day, birth of environmental movement
An estimated 20 million people took part across the US in marches, rallies, teach-ins and other public events to demonstrate support for the environment. Much of the environment’s deterioration/destruction from toxic and radioactive dumps, pesticides, wildlife extinction, air pollution, oil spills, raw sewage, wilderness loss and freeways came from corporate actions – that were ignored, sanctioned or subsidized by the government. The day led to the creation of organizations and massive grassroots pressure leading to the establishment of the EPA and federal laws addressing clean air, water and wildlife protection.
Earth Day went global in 1990. More than 200 million people in over 140 countries took part in activities and sparked a global movement, which continues today against these same issues as well as climate change.
Corporate entities remain a major cause of environmental destruction.
2011 – Students call for constitutional amendment abolishing corporate personhood
The Associated Students organization of Humboldt State University in California pass a resolution supporting the Move to Amend campaign and calling for a constitutional amendment to abolish corporate personhood. The resolution was proposed by a group of students working with Democracy Unlimited of Humboldt County (DUHC).
2001 – Publication this month of “How Long Shall We Grovel: A Memo for the Record” by Richard Grossman, POCLAD co-founder
“…ANYONE who chooses to look will find massive evidence of chemical corporation murder, pillage & lies extending over a century. ANYONE who chooses to look will see persistent corporate denial of people’s constitutional and human rights, & government complicity. This country exalts the platitude “all political authority is inherent in the people.”
But our great corporations have long been protected by the rule of law … empowered by our own constitution and bill of rights. Our society has bestowed upon chemical corporation leaders, as upon top officials of all giant corporations, the highest rewards & honors, & great wealth.
Great corporations have been exalted by legislators & judges, presidents & governors, police and national guards, by local, state & federal governments. How long shall we authorize chemical corporate officials to kill? How long shall we beg them to tell the truth? To make the earth’s air, water and soil, our foods and our jobs, a little less deadly? To please “give us” the right to know? How long shall we grovel before our elected public servants? Other species are counting on us to do more than regulate the destruction of the planet. What do YOU think we the people should do now?” http://poclad.org/BWA/2001/BWA_2001_APR.html