Thursday, August 29, 2019
WALL STREET PLUNDERS - JOHNSON & JOHNSON AIDED BY COURTS - LAWYER-JUDGES ARE ALWAYS ABETTING CRIMINAL CORPORATIONS
On Monday, Oklahoma state Judge Thad Balkman delivered his decision from the bench in a landmark case between the state of Oklahoma and pharmaceutical company Johnson & Johnson over the company’s role in the deadly opioid epidemic. The trial was the first case brought by a state government seeking to hold a drug maker directly responsible for the death and devastation caused by the epidemic.
In his ruling, Judge Balkman ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay $572 million for its role in driving the epidemic, which has claimed the lives of more than 6,000 people in Oklahoma. The trial has been closely watched by other opioid makers, distributors and pharmacy chains, many of whom are awaiting trials on nearly 2,000 similar lawsuits.
The ruling is being cynically hailed by the mainstream media as a victory for the victims of the epidemic. This is a lie.
The final ruling in Oklahoma sent a clear signal to all the guilty parties: Business will stay open. The courts are on their side.
Wall Street celebrated the real victor, Johnson & Johnson, in after-hours trading on the stock market. The company’s stock price surged more than four percent in response to the ruling. Shares of other drug makers also surged, including Mallinckrodt, Teva Pharmaceutical and Endo International, three of the largest drug makers in the world, all implicated in the opioid epidemic.
The toothless ruling follows a well-worn pattern in which giant corporations, after committing horrific social crimes, get off with a relatively small fine.
Johnson & Johnson made billions of dollars off opioid sales for over a decade. For the fiscal year 2017 alone, Johnson & Johnson reported overall earnings of $15.3 billion, with an annual revenue of $81.6 billion. Judge Balkman’s ruling of $572 million amounts to barely two weeks’ profits for the company.
At the peak of the epidemic, other drug companies were bringing in anywhere from $403 million (for opioids sold by Endo) to $3.1 billion (in OxyContin sales by Purdue Pharma) in a single year.
In the recent trial, Oklahoma state was seeking $17 billion to pay for its plan to combat the epidemic, which they noted includes “addiction treatment, drug courts and other services.” The state predicts it will need at least the next 20 years to repair the damage done by the opioid epidemic.
Despite the paltry amount of the damages awarded, the language of the ruling was unequivocal. Judge Balkman wrote, “Defendants caused an opioid crisis that is evidenced by increased rates of addiction, overdose deaths and neonatal abstinence syndrome in Oklahoma.” He added:
The Defendants [Johnson & Johnson], acting in concert with others, embarked on a major campaign in which they used branded and unbranded marketing to disseminate the messages that pain was under-treated and ‘there was a low risk of abuse and a low danger’ of prescribing opioids ... A key element in Defendants’ opioid marketing strategy to overcome barriers to liberal opioid prescribing was its promotion of the concept that chronic pain was under-treated (creating a problem) and increased opioid prescribing was the solution ... False, misleading, and dangerous marketing campaigns have caused exponentially increasing rates of addiction, overdose deaths.
Balkman went on to note that the company had been warned by its own advisory board of the dangerous marketing methods: “In 2001, Defendants were advised by Defendants’ own hired scientific advisory board that many of the primary marketing messages Defendants used to promote opioids in general, and Duragesic [the company’s high-strength drug] specifically, were misleading and should not be disseminated.”
The ruling also admitted that the company had paid vast sums of money to “a variety of different pain advocacy groups and organizations that influences prescribing physicians and other healthcare professionals.”
A recent report from the Washington Post, based on leaked emails, gives a partial glimpse into the corrupt relations that prevailed between drug manufacturers and distributors. One such exchange in January 2009 was between Victor Borelli, a national account manager for drug maker Mallinckrodt, and Steve Cochrane, the vice president of sales for KeySource Medical.
Borelli wrote “Keep ’em comin’!” in response to an email informing him that 1,200 bottles of oxycodone 30 mg tablets had been shipped. Cochrane responded. “Flyin’ out of there. It’s like people are addicted to these things or something. Oh, wait, people are…”
To which Borelli replied: “Just like Doritos keep eating. We’ll make more.”
Mallinckrodt, for whom Borelli works, is one of the companies whose stocks rose following the Oklahoma ruling.
No section of the ruling class that has any intention of bringing to justice those responsible for this massive social crime. To take on the pharmaceutical companies would require taking on the entire political establishment, with which Big Pharma is intimately intertwined.
Posted by The Mexican Invasion & Occupation at 10:24 AM
FBI raid of UAW president exposes union as criminal syndicate
On Wednesday morning, FBI agents carried out raids in four states, including at the suburban Detroit home of current United Auto Workers President Gary Jones, as the federal probe into illegal bribe-taking and kickbacks reached the very top of the UAW.
The September 14 contract expiration for 155,000 General Motors, Ford and Fiat Chrysler workers is fast approaching. Among rank-and-file workers, there is deep hostility to both the auto companies and the corrupt UAW.
Armed with search warrants, FBI and IRS agents combed through the UAW president’s garage in Canton, Michigan, seizing files and counting “piles of cash,” according to a neighbor. The agents also searched the offices of UAW Region 5 in Hazelwood, Missouri, where Jones was director until being appointed UAW head last year.
What has been revealed so far is not a matter of garden variety corruption, which has always plagued the unions. The UAW is a criminal syndicate run by gangsters. The UAW has been exposed as a grifting operation, stealing billions from workers over years to the benefit of union executives.
United Auto Workers President Gary Jones, left, and General Motors Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Mary Barra shake hands to open their contract talks Detroit, Tuesday, July 16, 2019. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
Workers now know, if there was ever any doubt, that it is necessary to form new organizations, rank-and-file factory committees to carry out a struggle against the auto companies.
Union executives colluded with the employers to impoverish union members with the full knowledge that a portion of the money robbed from workers would find its way into their own pockets. Anyone who still claims that the UAW “represents” autoworkers is deliberately trying to delude workers.
Also targeted in the raids yesterday was former President Dennis Williams, who convicted union officials have charged with approving the illegal use of millions of dollars of company money. This money was funneled through union-company training centers to finance travel, luxury purchases and resort stays for UAW officials.
The FBI seized materials from Williams’ $610,000 home in Corona, California, 70 miles west of Palm Springs, where UAW officials spent millions on golfing and luxury villas. Also searched was the UAW Black Lake Conference Center, a 1,000-acre resort in northern Michigan, which is funded with interest money from the $780 million member-financed UAW strike fund. The UAW is building a new cottage for Williams at the location.
The Wisconsin home of Williams’ former top aide, Amy Loasching, was also searched. Loasching, who is the secretary and treasurer of Williams’ nonprofit, the Williams Charity Fund, sat on the 2015 UAW-Chrysler National Negotiating Committee with Williams and former UAW Vice President Norwood Jewell. Jewell was already sentenced to jail for taking bribes from Fiat Chrysler.
At least six of the top eight UAW “negotiators” who signed the 2015 deal, which cost Fiat Chrysler workers thousands of dollars in lost wages and benefits, have either been convicted or implicated in the corruption scandal.
The corruption indictments have already spread to officials from the UAW-GM department. Michael Grimes, the top aide of former UAW vice presidents Joe Ashton and Cindy Estrada, who was on the bargaining committee in 2011 and 2015, has been indicted for taking nearly $2 million in kickbacks from vendors.
The vendors were paid with money from the UAW-GM Center for Human Resources to produce union-branded jackets, watches and other items.
The labor agreements signed by Grimes’ bosses—who have also been implicated in the illegal schemes—froze wages and paved the way for the closure of factories, including GM’s historic Lordstown, Ohio assembly plant, with the loss of thousands of jobs.
Six of the top eight UAW-Fiat Chrysler negotiators have already been convicted or implicated for taking company bribes
It is 40 years since the first Chrysler bailout in 1979-80, when the UAW was brought onto the corporate board of directors to oversee the wiping out of 60,000 jobs and impose nearly half a billion dollars in wage cuts, or nearly $35,000 a year for each worker in today’s dollars.
The sacrifices, the UAW insisted, were necessary because jobs could only be “saved” by boosting the competitiveness and profitability of the US-based automakers.
Over the last four decades, however, the number of hourly UAW members at GM, Ford and Chrysler has fallen from 750,000 to 158,000. And far from the wage and benefit cuts being temporary, they have never stopped. As a result, autoworkers, once the highest paid industrial workers in the US, have been largely reduced to a low-wage casual workforce who cannot afford the cars they build.
Throughout this period, UAW membership fell from 1.5 million to below 400,000. The only thing keeping the organization afloat was massive infusions of cash from the automakers and the sanction of successive governments, which saw in the UAW the instrument to suppress the resistance of autoworkers and drastically reduce labor costs.
From 1982 to today, the automakers pumped more than $5 billion in “Joint Funds Reimbursements” to the UAW through various corporatist schemes, including joint training centers. Billions more have been transferred to the UAW in the form of company stocks and legal and illegal bribes.
The timing of the Justice Department’s corruption probe is significant. In 2015, autoworkers rebelled against the UAW with Fiat Chrysler workers defeating a UAW-backed national agreement for the first time in three decades. The WSWS Autoworker Newsletter was at the center of opposition, for which it was denounced by the UAW and the corporate media.
The Trump administration and the ruling class are aware of the immense anger of autoworkers and their determination to fight. They are fearful that the UAW will not be able to control another rebellion.
The danger exists that the government will intervene directly and create conditions for a settlement entirely on the company’s terms, either through placing the UAW under federal trusteeship—as was done with the Teamsters in the late 1980s under the Bush administration—or through some kind of forced arbitration, which could include a ban on strikes.
The Detroit News reported on Wednesday night that the raids “amplify the possibility the federal government could assume oversight of the union under anti-racketeering statutes.” If this were to happen, the struggle of autoworkers would put them in direct conflict with the Trump administration and the state.
Autoworkers cannot outsource their struggle to Trump’s Justice Department or any other section of the corporate-controlled government, Democrat or Republican.
Autoworkers must begin to form their own organizations of struggle, rank-and-file factory committees that are completely independent of the UAW and both big business parties. Preparations must be made now to carry out an industry-wide strike and to spread it to workers throughout the entire auto and auto parts industry, while appealing to workers in Canada, Mexico and around the world for joint cross-border industrial action.
The UAW “bargaining committee” is completely illegitimate and must be replaced by a committee of rank-and-file workers. Factory committees should be organized and advance their own demands, including a 40 percent pay increase, the abolition of the multi-tier pay and benefit system, the conversion of all temporary and contract workers to full-time positions with full pay and benefits, and the rehiring of all laid-off workers.
It is not possible to reform the UAW. Its transformation into a bribed tool of management is rooted in the nationalist and pro-capitalist character of all the old organizations that claim to “represent” the working class.
The very same day the FBI raids were taking place, the Communications Workers of America (CWA) sabotaged the powerful strike by 22,000 AT&T workers in nine southern US states, forcing them back to work on management’s terms. Around the world, the nationalist unions are accepting plant closings, mass layoffs and wage and benefit cuts.
That is why the building of rank-and-file factory committees and reviving the militant traditions of American autoworkers must be guided by an entirely different strategy: the international unification of the working class, based on a socialist program to fight the global auto companies.
The WSWS Autoworker Newsletter is holding an emergency online conference call Thursday, August 29, at 7:30 p.m. EDT to discuss a plan of action for rank-and-file autoworkers to take the contract negotiations out of the hands of the corrupt UAW and launch an international fight back for workers’ interests. We urge all autoworkers to register and participate.
Posted by The Mexican Invasion & Occupation at 10:21 AM
Posted by The Mexican Invasion & Occupation at 10:10 AM
SANCTUARY CITY ILLEGAL - ILLEGAL RAPED 16-YEAR-OLD AT KNIFEPOINT - REALLY WANT AMNESTY AND WIDER OPEN BORDERS
Posted by The Mexican Invasion & Occupation at 9:32 AM