Washington, D.C.–With bluster and paranoia, the lobbyists at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce across from Lafayette Square are grinding out background memos alerting their members to the latest cataclysmic event in their Chamber Of Horrors. It’s Big Business Day, April 17, 1980–a national teach-in on the powers, abuses and needed reforms of the giant multinational corporations that grip our economy and government.
In the tradition of past teach-ins such as Earth Day, Food Day and Sun Day, the Big Business Day coalition of consumer, labor, religious, elderly and neighborhood groups strives to educate, stimulate and offer proposals for a more efficient and just economic performance with ecological respect for the health of present and future generations.
Since this writer is one of the sponsors of the Day, an anonymous insider at the Chamber of Commerce has seen fit to supply me with trade association dispatches about this upcoming national event. The. Chamber’s major background paper provides attempted rebuttals to the principal criticisms of Big Business. Strawmen and fig leafs romp between statistical casuistries. One is expected to feel sympathy for little old Exxon, GM and Dupont.
For example, the Chamber writes that the frequent assertion about 500 companies having admitted to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) of engaging in bribery, neglects to note that this represents only 0.0036 percent of the 14 million companies in the U.S. What the Chamber neglected itself to mention was that these were mostly. large companies like Exxon and Lockheed which the SEC was focusing its very limited resources upon in recent years.
A fascinating part of the Chamber’s rebuttal to the critics is the enumeration of progress in restructuring boards of directors, reducing some pollution and minimizing some. conflicts of interest. These changes, modest as they are, would not have come about without the kinds of past inquiries, criticism and law enforcement that the Big Business Day coalition wants increased.
The Business Roundtable memo dated February 14, 1980, to chief “Executives of Roundtable Companies,” contained unintended satire in the form of an advisory by Herbert Schmertz, vice president of Mobil Oil Corp. Schmertz, who trumpets the oil industry by day and by night writes fiction about evil and lustful oil executives, describes an elaborate working group to counter the Big Business Day effort.
In contrast to all this internal maneuvering by the Fortune 500 set, Big Business Day people have openly welcomed participation in events by corporate executives. I have co-signed a letter to the largest 200 corporation leaders asking them to express themselves at the town meetings, debates and media programs covering the Day. It will be revealing to see what responses are given to this invitation.
Readers who wish information about the April 17 activities and the power of large corporations over crucial decisions in the Eighties can write to Big Business Day, 1346 Connecticut Ave., Washington, D.C., 20036.