Taking on Corporate America–and Winning!

3 05 2011

The Peace Development Fund has always been an early funder of small groups that take on the behemoths, whether they be in the government or corporate sector. INFACT, a grantee in 1985, was a young and small organization at that time, but had already waged a successful fight that brought about significant reforms in the life-threatening marketing of infant formula in poor countries. Thanks to funding from the Peace Development Fund in the first days of their campaign against nuclear weapons-maker General Electric, they soon brought down that “Goliath.”

Reporting on the fight against GE, they recall, “Our international boycott of GE products cost the company over $100 million in lost medical equipment sales. Major retail stores including Safeway and Target began stocking light bulbs made by other companies. In 1993, GE caved under enormous public pressure and moved out of the nuclear weapons business. When our campaign began, the world was on the brink of nuclear annihilation: 50,000 nuclear warheads were on constant alert and the U.S. was building five nuclear bombs a day. At the close of the campaign, no nuclear bombs were in production on American soil. Allied organizations continue to work toward the elimination of weapons of mass destruction.”

INFACT, now called Corporate Accountability International, is no longer the small, young “David.” They have gone on to many more successful victories, including Challenging Big Tobacco and a highly visible Corporate Hall of Shame. We are proud that PDF’s early support has allowed them to win and flourish.  Like PDF, they can show 30+ years of extraordinary and effective work, “Setting the New Standard: Corporate Accountability.”

from Peace Developments, Winter 85-86

“INFACT Aims Slingshot at GE”

In a David and Goliath confrontation that stirs the imagination, one of the multibillion-dollar corporations most deeply involved in the nuclear weapons business is being challenged with – ironing boards.

The ironing boards, the latest thing in literature tables, are popping up on the streets of Boston, Minneapolis, Chicago, and the San Francisco Bay area. They are used by volunteer activists for INFACT, the organization that initiated – and won – the famous international Nestle Boycott. INFACT is now turning its spotlights on General Electric, which claims to “Bring Good Things to Life,” but which also brings us many essential parts of nuclear weapons systems.

From those ironing boards, in the past ten months, 2,721 volunteers have generated 185,172 individually signed messages of opposition to eleven major weapons corporations including GTE, Morton Thiokol, Rockwell International, General Electric, Westinghouse, and Monsanto.

INFACT began in 1976 with a handful of people in Minneapolis who were concerned about infant-formula abuse in Third World countries. It has grown to become an international people’s organization whose purpose is to stop the abuses or transnational corporations that endanger the health and survival of people all over the world.

Thousands of people working together in the effective Nestle infant formula campaign changed the practices of the world’s largest food corporation. INFACT is certain that thousands of people working together can also bring some changes in the nuclear weapons industry.

“People just don’t accept that nuclear weapons give us security,” says Ruth Shy, national director of the Nuclear Weaponmakers Campaign. “They want to challenge the corporations about their role in the nuclear weapons network. It’s exciting!”

The group sees the greatest threat to global survival today as the production and aggressive promotion of nuclear weapons by the multibillion-dollar weapons industry. With so much money at stake, weapons transnationals are involved at every level of the nuclear weapons chain: creating, developing, promoting, producing, and profiting from weapons of mass destruction. They are an invisible force in the decision-making process in Congress.

The Weaponmakers Campaign has begun by exposing and publicly challenging the role of the weapons industry in the spiraling arms buildup.

Now the campaign is shifting to concentrate on General Electric, the country’s third largest maker of primary nuclear warfare systems, involved in the B-1B and Stealth bombers, Trident, MX, and “Star Wars,” and maker of the neutron generators that prime the initiation of the chain reaction within nuclear bombs. GE was heavily involved in the Manhattan Project and is a prime example, INFACT believes, of how the nuclear weapons industry had influenced and engineered nuclear weapons policy for more than 40 years. Since GE’s work is critical to the production of so many nuclear weapons systems, INFACT’s focus on this one manufacturer can have an impact on the entire industry.

“We feel good about this campaign,” Ruth Shy says. “People want something concrete they can do, and we offer them that opportunity,” referring to a highly effective mail campaign to GE. In the first phase of the GE campaign, INFACT volunteers are exposing GE’s role and issuing a public challenge to GE to live up to its corporate motto and stop making and promoting nuclear weapons. The challenge is being made by tens of thousands of people what are signing postcards to GE with an anti-nuclear message.

A replay of David and Goliath? Perhaps. But let’s not forget who won.

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