Thursday, December 05, 2013

A quick look into the long history of corporate distrust in Cascadia

From Cascadia PDX:
“The corporate state is not science fiction. Corporate agribusiness is taking over what, how, and who grows food in my community. It has become obvious that the government isn’t going to lift a finger to stop them. It’s clear that the people, in the places where we live, must break the chokehold of a system of law favoring corporations to one that recognizes community rights.”

Dana Allen of Corvallis, Oregon
Dana is not expressing an unpopular sentiment around certain parts of Cascadia. Even outside what most would consider liberal urban enclaves, most people would express at least latent mistrust of big companies.

But, like a lot of things that make up modern Cascadia, this isn't a new thing. Early settlers to Oregon and Washington brought with them a mistrust of the new corporate model. In the creation of both major American Cascadian states, delegates from Appalachia clashed with more corporate friendly New Englanders in how corporations should be handled.

In Oregon in the 1850s:

Many of the delegates entered the convention with a strong mistrust of corporations. They had seen abuses in the Midwest and elsewhere in which unscrupulous corporate operators had left innocent stockholders deep in debt and workers unpaid. Other delegates saw no way for Oregon to move forward without easy access to "the genius of our age to incorporate." Some of the debate would revolve around stereotypes of corporations as large and uncaring machines of the economy that routinely chewed up farmers and workers.
Eventually, they landed on  a sort of homegrown middle ground for corporations:

They looked to the benefits provided by corporations that would enhance rather than threaten the rural character of the agrarian ideal. An example could be viewed only a short walk from the convention where the final work was being completed on the Willamette Woolen Mills the territory's first large factory. This corporate endeavor was home-grown in origin, scope, and benefit. This was proof that, within the proper framework and regulation, corporations could benefit Oregon and free it from the need to import expensive products from far-off factories. Otherwise, Williams warned, "We must pay tribute to Massachusetts and New England all our lives, unless we can devise some way here for the erection of manufacturing establishments in this state."
When Washington got around to drafting a constitution in 1878, a lot of these same discussions went into crafting the document. Washington Territory didn't end up getting statehood in the 1870s (an 1889 constitution was eventually approved by Congress). What was theoretical in Oregon in the 1850s was a practical discussion in Washington during their drafting.

Some of the provisions adopted by the Walla Walla Convention reflected distrust of corporations and railroad. All charter and special privileges that had not been fulfilled in good faith were to be invalidated at the time of the adoption of this constitutions. This provision was apparently directed against the Northern Pacific Railroad whose land policy was unpopular in Washington Territory because it made no real effort to build a line in accordance with its Washington charter until after 1880.
Other provisions including making stockholders individually liable for actions of their company and outlawing banks.

No comments: