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Organic Consumers Association

Remembering Richard Grossman--Fighter against Corporate Tyranny

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 My good friend, activist and anti-corporate crusader Richard Grossman passed away one year ago today. What made his work unique was his research and critical thinking on the nature of the corporation. How on earth did the corporation, an entity that exists only on paper in the form of a charter of incorporation, get to have so much power? Today corporations get to decide to a very large extent the quality of the air we breathe and the water we drink, how we access the internet, our societies' transportation and energy policies, the food we eat, the contents of the news we read and watch, and much more.

For Grossman, regulation was not the answer. He regarded it as a red herring that distracted from the real issue: the fiction of corporate personhood. He founded the Program on Corporations Law and Democracy (POCLAD), which in its web site describes itself as "people instigating democratic conversations and actions that contest the authority of corporations to govern. Our analysis evolves through historical and legal research, writing, public speaking, and working with organizations to develop new strategies that assert people's rights over property interests." He also wrote "Fear at Work", a book about job blackmail by employers and the need for an alliance of environmentalists and organized labor, and published the newsletter "By What Authority", which questions basic assumptions about corporations.

I first met him in the summer of 1993 at the Institute for Social Ecology in Vermont at a symposium on alternative economics that also featured Roy Morrison and Susan Meeker-Lowry. I was there just for the ISE summer session but ended up living in Vermont for a few years, enrolling in the Social Ecology MA degree program, and hosting a radio talk show on local station WGDR.

The following year Grossman invited me to participate in an activists' meeting/retreat that he organized in order to develop new thinking around the corporate charter, the very heart of corporations' existence. In that retreat by the banks of the Hudson, just north of NYC, I met some very remarkable and committed activists, like Peter Montague, publisher of Rachel's Hazardous Wastes, an invaluable source of information on chemical pollution. Also, Phil Mattera, a giant among researchers of corporate crime; sustainable transportation advocate Charlie Komanoff; Jane Perkins, who would later go on to direct Friends of the Earth USA; technology critic and polemicist David F. Noble; Hofstra law professor Carl Mayer; Ruth Caplan, executive director of Environmental Action; and Ronnie Cummins, a veteran of Jeremy Rifkin's Foundation on Economic Trends who back then headed the Pure Food Campaign. Cummins would later found the Organic Consumers Association, which played a leading role in this year's campaign for California's Proposition 37, a GMO food labeling measure that was narrowly defeated by the corporate-funded opposition.


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