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Fighting Back Against Corporate Rights

It’s the opposite of Citizens United and then some. Corporations have rights beyond personhood, according to Thomas Linzey of the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF). Those rights allow corporations to run roughshod over local communities, affecting everything from their drinking water (think of Nestlé in the Columbia Gorge) to their homes (as with coal trains running through towns). 

CELDF and local communities across Oregon are working to establish community bills of rights that assert the right to local self-governance as well as proposing ballot measures that challenge the current legal structure that puts control in the hands of corporations, not citizens.

 Linzey will speak at Lane Community College on Oct. 7 on the topic “Time for an Oregon Revolt: Communities taking on corporations and the state of Oregon.”

Linzey is giving his talk as part of a seven-city community rights tour that will highlight work not only in Lane County but also in Benton, Lincoln, Coos, Columbia and Douglas counties, where people are working on adopting community bills of rights to ban GMOs, coal trains, pipelines and pesticide sprays.

In that vein, the Oregon Community Rights Network (O4CR), one of the groups bringing Linzey to town together with the LCC Peace Center, announced it has re-filed its proposed state constitutional amendment that seeks to “secure the right of local community self-government most specifically in placing community rights above corporate privilege.” 

The group says it has begun to gather “the required 1,000 sponsorship signatures for the administrative review process to take place” with an aim to be cleared for the signature gathering needed to qualify for the November 2016 ballot. 

This isn’t the first time Linzey has come to Oregon to talk about community rights. He spoke in 2013 as a keynote speaker at the Public Interest Environmental Law Conference and again in 2014 at The Shedd. Since then, he says, the issue has grown and people are now talking about changing the federal Constitution, not just local laws, so he will be giving a more advanced talk.

Linzey says that almost more controversial than the local efforts to ban activities like growing GMOs in Lane County is the aspect of the law that would protect it “from challenges from corporations by stripping them of certain rights and protections.” 

It’s a broad new expansion of civil rights that insulates the law from corporations, he says. Linzey points out that when it comes to stopping something like a liquefied natural gas pipeline, as citizens are trying to do in Coos and Columbia counties, there is no means to halt it at the local level.

The community rights effort for a charter amendment to ban GMOs in Lane County will not only be bolstered by Linzey’s talk but also by Neil Young’s “The Monsanto Years” tour at Matthew Knight Arena Oct. 8 (see music this issue). Young also co-produced a documentary, Seeding Fear, about Monsanto. The group Support Local Food Rights, Lane County, will table at the concert to gather signatures and call attention to its work to pass a charter amendment that would ban GMOs in Lane County.

Linzey speaks 7 pm Oct. 7 at LCC’s downtown campus conference room, 101 W. 10th Ave. More information on Linzey and CELDF’s work is at celdf.org. See Seeding Fear at wkly.ws/22t.