Bids by Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton for the Democratic presidential nomination aren’t the only campaigns driving voters to polls in record numbers. Administrators of the Corporate Hall of Shame expect a record turnout for their online poll, which allows consumers to vote for the most abusive corporations of the year.
Last year, more than 20,000 votes were cast to induct ExxonMobil, Haliburton and Wal-Mart, a consistent nominee, into the Hall of Shame, according to its creators, Corporate Accountability International, a membership organization and corporate watchdog.
The organization has existed for 30 years and has run the Hall of Shame campaign for 14 years through a collaborative effort. According to Sara Joseph, a Hall of Shame spokesperson, voting opened up to the public via an online poll two-years-ago. Before that time, ballots were only mailed to members and allies. This year’s poll closes July 4.
This year’s nominees were selected based on issues such as global warming, war profiteering or predatory lending. The nominees and abuses highlighted by the Hall of Shame include:
-ADM (Archer Daniels Midland)–for clearing endangered forests and wildlife habitats for palm oil plantations in Indonesia, making it the world’s third worst contributor to global warming;
-Blackwater Worldwide–for killing unarmed Iraqi civilians and securing lucrative contracts through political and financial ties with Bush administration;
-Countrywide Financial–for predatory mortgage lending to elderly and non-English speaking borrowers and gouging minority borrowers with discriminatory rates and fees;
-Mattel–for producing tens of millions of lead-contaminated children’s toys and lobbying against bans on other highly toxic chemicals;
-NestlÃ©–for labor violations, including child exploitation, for contributing to the obesity epidemic and threatening community water supplies;
– Toyota—for lobbying against fuel economy standards while pushing its environmental “leadership” and hybrid vehicles;
-Wendy’s–for contributing to childhood obesity and refusing to meet nutritional labeling regulations; and
-Wal-Mart–for displacing local businesses and failing to cover employees under its corporate health plan.
Ms. Joseph said corporations are very good at waging public relations campaigns to present clean images, but the Hall of Shame wants genuine changes. One of the biggest successes, she said, involved a hospital corporation inducted into the hall for dumping patients who did not have health insurance. The company worked its way out of the Hall of Shame after making significant reforms.
“We have been really successful and this is a great opportunity for Americans to hold a referendum on some of the country’s largest and most influential corporations. They really affect our lives and have a huge amount of power, however this is one way to expose their abuses and we have a lot of fun doing it,” Ms. Joseph said.
Jane Lazgin, director of corporate communications for Nestle Waters North America, said their operation is backed by state laws and legal policy and every community has a process for deciding whether the company operates locally or not.
She objected to NestlÃ©’s placement on the ballot for the hall, noting its benefits to communities through taxes, local jobs and other contributions.
“Our job is to be sure the use of our water is done with sustainability and we do that through the employment of 11 geologists who very carefully select our spring sources. We undergo a rigorous testing process so that the water we take forever flows and brings no harm to the environment and neighboring users,” Ms. Lazgin said.