Friday, May 05, 2006

How can we have a democracy if corporations have all the power?

According to an article in today’s Dispatch a vocal opponent of the proposed pork plant, Dawn Marner, who lives near where the plant would be built, has been fired from her job with A.D. Huesing. She had faxed two letters relating to the plant from a company fax machine to Silvis Mayor Lyle Hohse and East Moline assistant city administrator Rich Kehner in the last three months. She did not use company letterhead but the fax machine included text in the transmitted image identitifying the machine they were from.

East Moline Mayor John Thodos and Moline’s RiverStone Group spokesman Robert Imler said they spoke with two A.D. Huesing managers last month about the plant after hearing about plant related letters with A. D. Huesing’s name on them. Ms. Marner was fired without explanation a day after the company board chairman questioned her about a newspaper story about a public argument between her and Mayor Lohse about the letters being made public. “The owner was mad at me because it got out in the news.”

Since people from all over the world read this blog I need to explain a little of the above. Moline's RiverStone Group is a corporation which owns undeveloped land in rural East Moline, Illinois. This land is wetlands and is prone to flooding. East Moline Mayor John Thodos is one of a number of local elected officials who are eager to have Triumph Foods build a pork processing plant on Riverstone Group's land because it will supposedly bring 1000 jobs. He is so eager for these jobs (and so unconcerned about the environmental impact of building on flood-prone wetlands) that he is willing to give huge tax breaks to the project. These tax breaks (which may or may not be required for Triumph Foods to build the plant, no proof was ever presented to the public) required approval by 3 city councils and the county board. It was at the city council meeting at which votes on the tax breaks were to be voted where opponents such as Ms Marner made such a fuss that the mayor and his corporate partners took actions such as the ones described above. Also note that the mayor, the Riverstone Group and Triumph Foods devoted little effort to trying to persuade the public of the benefits of their proposal. All their efforts seemed to be concentrated on convincing the city councils and county board to approve the tax breaks. Their efforts appeared to me to be mostly strong-arm tactics such as the ones described above.

It sounds to me like the two sides in this debate are playing by different rules. The pork plant opponents are trying to prevail by persuading the public with their passion and their arguments. The pork plant proponents are going to win by silencing their opponents.

And you thought that this was a democracy in which the public would ultimately decide.

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

I think Riverstone and John Thodos should be ashamed of themselves. I know there will be a lot of people that will shy Pepsi because of what AD Huseing did in firing their employee when first saying it was OK and they were neuteral. I feel that John Thodos should resign, East Moline would be better off.

Anonymous said...

This happens all the time. The message is clear: Don't mess with the big boys.
Employers can interpret Personnel Policies as they wish. Using company property ( the fax or even e-mail)for personal use is probably a violation of company regulations.
Kinko's is a few blocks away. The employee should have taken her lunch hour to send her faxes.
As she says, Ms. Marner can now spend more time organizing against the pork plant.
By the way I wonder how many people against the pork plant have given up eating pork. Meat rots in the gut before it can be absorbed into the system. If we ate less pork we would need less pork plants.

Dave Barrett said...

Well, of course, very few of the people who are opposing this particular project are doing so because they oppose pork plants in general, much less because they oppose eating pork. Some people are against the project because of the huge tax breaks being offered to this particular factory and company. Some people are opposed because of the chosen site, destroying wetlands and building in the flood plain.
I doubt that boycotting eating pork would stop politicians giving favored companies tax breaks or stop developers destroying wetlands.

Anonymous said...

She used a companies asset for other then company business, and it blew up in her face. She should have been fired. Plain and simple

Anonymous said...

It's an outrage, pure and simple. This isn't about using company assets. That's a smoke screen and everyone knows it. Event the tightly wrapped commenter above probably has some stationary and some pens from work around the house somewhere.

No, this was a case of someone being fired because of their political views. Period.

If that doesn't outrage people, I'm feel sorry for them. Maybe they'll get fired some day for wearing a pair of shoes the boss doesn't like.

Thom said...

People have been often been fired for embarrassing companies. The most famous I remember around here was in the early 80’s when Deere fired Jody Stutz for photocopying her backside. More recently there have been several people around the nation who have been disciplined or terminated for posting things on non-company blogs that their employers felt was embarrassing. Most people I know do minor things with company resources everyday, without thinking about it, which are termination grounds. This one would probably been overlooked if not for some embarrassment caused the company or mishandling of the employee-employer situation by the employee. And another consideration is whether or not she was a WANTED employee. Even a good employee can have a bad relationship with a manager in the company. Been there done that, I quit rather than take the misery. Sometimes the employee can over-react to a discipline measure that gets he or she fired. And sometimes a firing is just he said-she said. There are just too many unknown variables to actually recognize why the employee was fired. But I do think the firing was an over-reaction by the company on the news I have read to this point, unless she got into a verbal argument with her employer.

Anonymous said...

sorry to disappoint, but no company assets at my home, in my car or on my person. Now, certainly, there go I before the Grace of God, (like making an NCAA BB bracket tourney on company time), but this isnt about me, as my third grade teacher would say. This is about a person who used a company fax, for other then company business- she could face discipline, up to and including dismissal, and she did. It was up to her employer. She gambled, she lost. So be it.

Thom said...

""sorry to disappoint, but no company assets at my home, in my car or on my person...""
*******************************
Good for you I wish others including myself had that kind of competence. I have been on both sides of the issue in my lifetime. Lord knows I have done many things over the years I should have been terminated for, thank God I wasn’t. In at least two cases in my younger more headstrong days when I went ballistic, I almost was fired. And in all fairness probably should have been fired in both cases, but I was fortunate enough to have a champion that protected and buffered me from higher management each time. But neither case was as trivial as this one is if you just take it for the face value of the few sound bytes of news that we have all heard.

I must have at least a dozen pens each from the various companies I have worked for over the last thirty years. Not to mention all the personal faxes, phone calls, family and friend visitations and other abused company resources coworkers and I have exploited over the years. All of them minor but they were a hidden company cost. However the problem I have noticed at every place I have ever worked, is that MOST companies work on the “WKRP in Cincinnati” principals of operation. If you are going to fire people for mismanaging trivial company resources, you will have to first start your firing with the Big Guy at the top. They are by far generally the worst abusers that I have witnessed. I still have to assume that we are not receiving the meat of this story from either side. It is far too expensive to replace an employee over a trivial abuse unless the situation has snowballed. My guess is if she hadn’t went ballistic and media-coverage extreme she would still be working her job.

Dave Barrett said...

Everywhere I have worked the rules against personal use of company equipment and supplies were very selectively enforced. Furthermore it was widely viewed that in the case of the few employees who were fired and that was given as the official reason were in fact fired for other reasons.
It sounds like in this case it was not even given as a reason.
If they in fact fired everyone who ever used the copier and fax machine for personal purposes they would have to fire almost everyone.

Anonymous said...

They fired her because she is a loon. The reason for firing her was more legit than that.

Dave Barrett said...

Yeah, anyone who opposes the powers that be is a loon! I notice that Bush supporters are starting to use that line of argument a lot lately, also. When Al Gore recently called for the resignation of top 6 Bush Administration officials for lying us into a disasterous war in Iraq Charles Krauthammer said that "Gore must be off his lithium."

Just because you are afraid to oppose the powerful does not mean that anyone who does is crazy. They just might be a little braver that you, that's all.