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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
IBM'S CORPORATE RECKLESSNESS: FROM THE HOLOCAUST TO OCCUPATIONAL CANCER
CHICAGO, IL, August 17, 2004 --/WORLD-WIRE/-- It's been long said that history has a way of catching up with all of us. And, in an extraordinary feat of cinematographic come-uppance, IBM's role as puppet master of the Holocaust is dramatically uncovered in the prize-winning documentary, "The Corporation." Featuring Michael Moore, Milton Friedman, and Noam Chomsky, among others, the film is now playing nationwide.
Shortly after Hitler seized power, IBM entered into an alliance with Nazi Germany, continuing well into World War II.
Before the dawn of computers, IBM designed over 200 Hollerith punch card machines, with a unique cross-tabulating technology. These were intended for the comprehensive identification of Jews, ancestral tracing of non-Jews with any Jewish lineage, censusing, and registration. This was the essential prelude for asset confiscation, ghettoization, and the logistics of Reichsbahn railroads, concentration camps, slave labor, and ultimately genocide.
IBM did not just sell the machines, but leased them at high profits. IBM subsidiaries in Berlin and Geneva, and their European surrogates, serviced and maintained the machines, and trained Nazi operators in concentration camps. Meanwhile, the corporation maintained a don't ask, don't tell deniability shield.
One might hope that the revelation of IBM's integral role in the Holocaust would motivate subsequent contrition. But, over recent decades, IBM's deniability shield has extended to America.
Indeed, IBM has assigned its U.S. workers to camps which don't have barbed wire or armed guards. Instead, they are chip-manufacturing plants, where workers have been unknowingly and uncontrollably exposed to well-known cancer causing chemicals. And much the same way as IBM hid its role in the Holocaust, it still is trying to hide the truth about its own plants.
In 1997, former IBM workers and their survivors began suing for work-related cancers. In discovery proceedings from approximately 200 ongoing lawsuits, IBM was ordered to disclose mortality records, detailing the causes of death of over 33,000 former workers over the past three decades. It was also ordered to disclose work history records of over 18,000 workers in its chip-manufacturing plants.
In events unfolding since "The Corporation" documentary was completed, these records were turned over to Dr. Richard Clapp, a distinguished epidemiologist at Boston University School of Public Health. Together with Dr. Rebecca Johnson, an independent statistical consultant, Dr. Clapp analyzed records of cancer deaths in IBM's chip-plant workers. The analysis showed that male workers died from high rates of kidney, brain, blood, and skin cancers, while female workers died from a high rate of kidney cancer.
IBM lawyers fought vigorously to contest the study, and block its publication on spurious legal grounds. The study had been scheduled for publication in a major journal, Clinics in Occupational and Environmental Medicine, published by the Amsterdam-based Elsevier. However, apparently bowing to IBM pressure, Elsevier refused to publish the Clapp-Johnson report, even though it had been approved by the publisher's own scientific reviewers. Nevertheless, the report's results are available in depositions, summarized in a New York Times report last September.
Of course, IBM would have us believe that its World War II history is just that, history. But its actions today show that IBM has learned the wrong lesson. IBM still seems more concerned in protecting its image, rather than human rights.
In stark contrast to IBM, and a wide range of other reckless corporations, there are growing numbers of socially responsible businesses. For instance, the Atlanta-based Interface company leases wholesale carpets, manufactured from non-toxic ingredients, and laid with non-toxic adhesives. After years of use, the carpets are recycled, rather than buried in municipal waste sites, and replaced with new carpets.
The leading specialty retailer, Gap, Inc. recently published a report on corporate responsibility. Far from espousing picture perfect conditions, it openly admits serious deficiencies, and pledges a commitment to making substantive improvements, including environmental concerns, sustainability, and worker rights.
Also, the rise of socially responsible investment funds, like the Calvert Funds or Domini Social Investments, further demonstrates that corporations can behave responsibly, while proving profitable.
Doubtless, some such trends are reactive, resulting from pressure by human rights groups, including The Social Venture Network, the National Labor Committee, the National League of Lawyers, and non-governmental organizations. However, as the documentary emphasizes, corporations' "pathological pursuit of profit and power" can only be halted by drastic constitutional and legislative reform.
CONTACT: Samuel S. Epstein, M.D., Professor emeritus, Environmental & Occupational Medicine, University of Illinois at Chicago School of Public Health; Chairman, Cancer Prevention Coalition. Chicago, Illinois. www.preventcancer.com; email@example.com
(In the interest of disclosure, the author participated in the documentary.)