The Houston PrincipIes
by David Foster,
Northwest Director of the United Steelworkers of America
Earth Island Institute Journal, Winter 2000
On May 19, environmental and labor leaders confronted CEO Charles Hurwitz
in Houston to demand that his Maxxam Corporation, which owns Kaiser Aluminum
and Pacific Lumber Company, be held accountable for its impact on working
people, communities and the environment.
By clear-cutting ancient redwoods in Northern California and by locking
out striking steelworkers in five cities, the Maxxam Corporation has become
an icon of corporate irresponsibility
Recognizing that we have a common interest in making corporations more
accountable for their behavior worldwide, environmental and labor leaders
have formed the Alliance for Sustainable Jobs and the Environment and circulated
the following statement, dubbed the "Houston Principles."
* The spectacular accumulation of wealth by corporations and America's
most affluent during the past two decades has come with a huge price tag.
* Corporations have become more powerful than the government entities
designed to regulate them.
* The goal of a giant global corporation is to maximize wealth and to
wield political power on its own behalf. Too often, their leaders regard
working people, communities and the natural world as resources to be used
and thrown away
* Recognizing the tremendous stakes, labor unions and environmental
advocates are beginning to recognize our common ground. Together we can
challenge illegitimate corporate authority over our country s and communities'
* While we may not agree on everything, we are determined to accelerate
our efforts, to make alliances as often as possible.
We believe that:
* A healthy future for the economy and the environment requires a dynamic
alliance between labor, management and environmental advocates.
* The same forces that threaten economic and biological sustainability
undermine the democratic process.
* The drive for short-term profits without regard for long-term sustainability
hurts working people, communities, and the Earth.
* Labor, environmental, and community groups need to act to organize
as a counterbalance to abusive corporate power.
We resolve to:
* Remind the public that the original purpose behind the creation of
corporations was to serve the public interest - namely working people, communities
and the Earth.
* Seek stricter enforcement of labor laws and advocate for new laws
to guarantee working people their right to form unions and their right to
* Make workplaces, communities, and the planet safer by reducing waste
and greenhouse gas emissions at a global level.
* Demand that global trade agreements include enforceable labor and
* Promote forward-thinking business models that allow for sustainability
over the long-term while protecting working people, communities, and the
This groundbreaking alliance of labor and environmentalists invites
all people to join with us in a spirit of creative cooperation. Together
we can forge a partnership that protects people and the planet.
Signed by: Major labor unions, environmental organizations, community
leaders, social activists and political thinkers.