Pittsburgh Challenges Corporate Personhood: Bill of Rights Template for Occupy

Jeff Reifman, Envision Seattle and Thomas Linzey, Esq of Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF) recently posted a major message to the Occupy movement, both a warning and a challenge…

“Mainstream progressive groups have failed by constraining their activities within legal and regulatory systems purposefully structured to subordinate communities to corporate power. Real movements don’t operate that way. Abolitionists never sought to regulate the slave trade – they sought to transform African-Americans from being property to becoming persons. Suffragists did the same – shifting women from being treated as property to being persons under the law. We face a similar challenge – how to elevate our rights and the rights of our communities above those of a corporate few.”

Celdf’s challenge, and their offer of assistance:  The model Community Bill of Rights template for Occupy communities that wish to begin mobilized initiative campaigns in their region.

To see how one community is using this template to reclaim their rights, read on…

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania Seeks Transformation By and for the People

I am a proud citizen of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the first City in the world to develop a local Bill of Rights that, among other wonderful things, excludes the corporate gas drilling rush from having their way with our gas reserves, and thus our precious aquifer and three rivers, too.   See Pittsburgh’s model ordinance.   Some are starting to call our fair city, Peaceburgh… it will take  a lot to live up to that name, but Occupy Pittsburgh is helping the process with ongoing education and action, working towards fundamental structural change.

Gas corporations are surprised, but not yet sufficiently deterred, by the anger and resistance

Many of Pennsylvania’s 99% continue to stand up to a massively powerful corporate lobby that is emboldened by the prospect of billions in fossil fuel revenues and backed by many of our State politicians, including our bought and sold Governor Corbett.  We invite other municipalities across shale gas regions to join us in this struggle, along with all across the globe who understand it’s time to stand up and support each other and the Earth.

Pittsburghers are daring the corporations to take this issue to court and challenge it’s legality under the State or Federal Constitution…

If they do so, many more people will begin to understand the game corporations are having with us.  In court we can highlight the obvious flaws like corporate personhood that value profit for the few over the long-term health and well-being of natural and human communities. 

See Pittsburgh’s video postcard invitation to collaboration with all those willing to resist the corporate grab of local resources (in this case Marcellus Shale Gas Rush): Sent from Pittsburgh to collaborating municipalities in Canada and France, French w/English subtitles

Sadly, few people inside the U.S. realize that “By and For the People” is currently a myth of major proportions here.  Because of the power of corporations, no municipality in the entire U.S.A. — except for the few like Pittsburgh that have reclaimed sovereignty/ their right to self-government— can exclude a legally incorporated business from having a place, somewhere in a municipality, to do what they do.  That is, municipalities can’t say “no”, we can only say “where and how”.  Corporations and their government lackeys get us focussed on the regulations, because they know constitutionally we cannot say “Not here”.  Corporations often go to the poorest areas first, because those people may lack the resources to resist.   This is a major reason so many corporations now go overseas.

“By and For the People” will no longer be a myth when we decide to stand up for each other and share our resources for change.  “Not in my back-yard” is not enough anymore, because pollution and economic oppression know no boundaries.  If the 99% are like me, I just want a chance to live a decent life in a decent place.  We should each be able to enjoy the gifts of nature and society as long as we are not taking more than our fair share, nor damaging or destroying someone else’s fair share.  It’s time we cooperate across the US and across the globe to stop the greedy.  The 99% have to realize our collective backyard is now the entire Earth and our constitutions must be justly transformed to reflect this fact.

The legislation is in place in Pittsburgh, but now we have the hard work to enact it effectively.  If we are sovereign over corporate entities doing business in our community, we have to make sure they are playing by our rules, that they operate their businesses without harm, and that they pay their fair share to support this community as they use our social and physical infrastructure.  While US corporate income taxes made up 9.7 percent of state revenues in 1980, according to the Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government, they now make up only an estimated 5.7.  It’s time for real deliberative democracy where we, the 99%, develop the new rules and models, and yes, legislation, supporting the 100%.  There’s much work to be done to become a movement that realizes what “By and For the People”  really means… share the tools for cooperation and transformation!

Mary Beth Steisslinger

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

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Categories: Local Communities


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One Comment on “Pittsburgh Challenges Corporate Personhood: Bill of Rights Template for Occupy”

  1. Lin Patterson
    December 28, 2011 at 9:36 pm #

    Truly inspiring.
    Lin Patterson
    Occupy Bath veteran

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