Wednesday, June 18, 2003

Are You Tired Of All Those Little Guys Beating Up On All Those Big Guys

Do you feel that big corporations have too little influence on your life and on the life of the nation?

Take heart: The Congressional Republicans are about to redress the imbalance:

Goodbye, Erin Brockovich...

It was the kind of legal action that made a heroine out of beauty-queen-turned-crusader Erin Brockovich, pitting the little people against the might of corporate America. But now the US Congress is set to hand business chiefs the greatest gift since the advent of the Bush administration: an end to so-called 'class action' suits.

If measures now being pushed through Congress succeed, her career as a champion of local people against big industry is over.

In the past, most class action suits were filed through state courts. In some of the better-known cases, against cigarette and later gun manufacturers, actions swept across states to become a tidal wave of litigation.

But the House of Representatives has voted by 253 to 170 to thwart the vast majority of class action suits in state courthouses, limiting all but the smallest claims to federal courts, where the big companies, say citizens' groups, find it easier to delay the progress of suits and 'shop' for courts more favourable to their interests.

'It's the biggest thing for years,' said a jubilant Lawrence Fineran, vice-president at the Association of Manufacturers. 'Just about every industry group is on this bandwagon, because every industry is affected.'

This is the kind of issue that lends itself to the most fundamental grassroots kind of opposition - standing outside supermarkets or malls with handouts explaining what's going on, talking to sympathetic PTA members - old fashioned informational picketing in front of appropriately selected law firms, local congressional and Senatorial offices.

I got so many interesting answers to my question about how to harness the grassroots potential of the blogisphere, I'm still digesting them. As soon as I have, I'll post something. In the meantime, keep on thinking and commenting. An issue like this is what organizing is all about.