Environmental, Human Rights, Women's and Pro-Democracy Groups Petition Attorney General of California to Revoke Unocal's Charter (part1)
Aiming to guard the public from a global oil company which they say is "a dangerous scofflaw corporation," 30 citizens' organizations and individuals today filed a 127-page petition seeking action by the California Attorney General to revoke the charter of the Union Oil Company of California (Unocal). Petitions were delivered to California Attorney General Dan Lungren's Sacramento office and, in simultaneous 11 a.m. press conferences, to his representatives at his Los Angeles and San Francisco offices.
Outraged over Unocal's business ties with the anti-woman Taliban militia in Afghanistan and the military dictators of Burma, as well as over the corporation's record as a "repeat offender" of environmental, labor and deceptive practices laws and its "usurpation of political power," petitioners ask that the attorney general call on a court to revoke the company's charter, appoint a receiver, and wind up the corporation's affairs "in order to fully protect jobs, workers, stockholders, unions, communities, the environment, suppliers, customers, government entities, and the public interest."
"We're letting the people of California in on a well-kept legal secret," said Robert Benson, professor of law at Loyola Law School, Los Angeles, and lead attorney for the National Lawyers Guild's International Law Project for Human, Economic and Environmental Defense (HEED) which prepared the petition. "The people mistakenly assume that we have to try to control these giant corporate repeat offenders one toxic spill at a time, one layoff at a time, one human rights violation at a time. But the law has always allowed the attorney general to go to court to simply dissolve a corporation for wrongdoing and sell its assets to others who will operate in the public interest. California attorneys general haven't often done it because they've become soft on corporate crime. Baseball players and convicted individuals in California get only three strikes. Why should big corporations get endless strikes? "
Benson said that the attorney general of New York recently asked a court to revoke the charters of two corporations that allegedly put out deceptive scientific research for the tobacco industry, and a judge in Alabama has asked his state courts to dissolve the tobacco companies themselves. In California, according to Benson, in 1976 conservative
Republican Attorney General Evelle Younger asked a court to dissolve a private water company for allegedly delivering impure water to its customers.
Unocal, the petition alleges on information and belief, was principally responsible for the notorious 1969 oil blowout in the Santa Barbara Channel, and since then has grievously polluted multiple sites from San Francisco to Los Angeles, has been identified as a potentially responsible party at 82 "Superfund" or similar toxic sites, has committed hundreds of violations of the Occupational Safety and Health Act, treats U.S. workers unethically and unfairly, has usurped political power, has undermined U.S. foreign policy, and has engaged in a pattern of illegal deceptions of the courts, stockholders and the public.
Additionally, the groups allege, Unocal has been complicit in "unspeakable" human rights violations perpetrated by foreign governments with which it has business ties in Afghanistan and Burma. The company's dealings with the Taliban militia in Afghanistan, known for its extremely cruel treatment of women, have particularly enraged women's groups.
Katherine Spillar, national coordinator for the Feminist Majority Foundation, one of the petitioning groups, denounced Unocal for its business dealings with the Taliban to build a gas pipeline which would bring the regime revenue and legitimacy. "If Unocal thinks it can do business with a regime that, in effect, denies women their right to exist as human beings, then we think Unocal's privilege to exist as a corporation must also be denied,"
Media Resources: Feminist Majority - September 10, 1998