Saturday, March 29, 2003

You may remember Clinton Administration's draft contractor responsibility regulation that was deep-sixed by the Bushies. And you may also remember the New York Times article and Frontline series on McWane Corporation, whose "disciplined management practices" killed and injured a large number of employees.

Travel with me now to Beaverton, Oregon and the Tualatin Valley Water District. Seems the District discovered that it had done about $155,000 worth of business with a subsidiary of McWane. Alarmed at the Times series that maintained that McWane regularly put profits before worker safety, the District prepared a letter to McWane from Board President Richard Burke stating that "I must convey the disgust and revulsion felt by the Board of Commissioners after reviewing reports from credible news agencies of admitted, willful violations of workers safety laws at the Tyler Pipe facility."

The letter also said the district would pass along information about McWane to other water providers in the Portland area.

It concluded: "We want to be assured that as the Tualatin Valley Water District participates in huge capital projects that will result in pipe purchases in the tens of millions of dollars, we will not be using pipes and fittings manufactured with an abject disregard of human decency. Shame on you."

Unfortunately, the Board backed off when Michael D. McAllister, assistant sales manager for Pacific States Cast Iron Pipe, a McWane subsidiary in Provo, Utah assured the Board that "We're not the same company we were a few years back," The Board will first talk with OSHA and the union representing McWane (The USWA).

"It seemed to me that we had to do something," Tualatin Valley board member Jim Doane said. "There might be ways of putting into bid documents some way to evaluate (bidders) on ways other than cost."

Stay tuned. But in the meantime, think of the potential of cities and counties all over the country taking into account contractors' health and safety records. There are a few "nuclear free zones" around the U.S. where cities refuse to buy products produced by companies that make nuclear weapons. Think of the potential of "Corporate Criminal Free Zones" where anyone wanting to sell goods and services to a public entity would first have to submit its OSHA and EPA records.

The War

This Blog is not about the war. I'm not going to write about the war...much. Maybe just a little. Check out the chilling Washington Monthly article by Joshua Micah Marshall where he describes the vision of the Bush-affiliated neo-conservatives and their hope that things continue to go wrong in the Middle East, giving the U.S. the excuse to eventually bring the entire region under our direct control. Conspiracy theorist you say? Check out the Washington Post where "Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld delivered a stern warning to Syria and Iran yesterday, threatening that the United States would hold them accountable for interfering in the U.S.-led war against neighboring Iraq."

And finally....The other day, our fearless leader in the White House said something about how the small setbacks we've been experiencing in Iraqwon't deter us because Americans have experienced war. Well, not really, at least not most of us, not like the rest of the world, unless you happened to be living in Manhattan or near the Pentagon. A lot of innocent Americans died on 9/11. By my reckoning, the number of Americans that died on 9/11 in relation to our total population would be about the equivalent of 300 innocent Iraqi deaths. I think we've probably exceeded that. So maybe we can stop now. Of course that's assuming that one believes that Iraq had anything to do with 9/11, or that innocent Iraqis should die even if they did.