Fellow Bernie Supporters,
We support Bernie Sanders because we care about corporate accountability, money in politics, health, worker safety, fair trade, humane economics, well-being and safety of consumers and the earth. These issues are all at the center of the struggle for justice in Bhopal, India where the American company Dow Chemical continues to evade justice. Senator Sanders has fought hard against Dow Chemical and its lobbyists for many years. Today, we should stand in solidarity with the people of Bhopal, as they continue their 32-year old struggle against the largest American chemical company.
What happened in Bhopal?
In December 1984, a pesticide factory owned by an American company leaked 40 tons of toxic gases killing over 8,000 people and maiming hundreds of thousands in Bhopal. The “accident” was the result of systematic cost-cutting over many years and flagrant violation of safety standards. After the disaster, the company refused to reveal the composition of the gases, claiming it was a trade secret. Left without an antidote, thousands more were killed or maimed. A few years later, it turned out that the company had also poisoned the groundwater of 300,000 people. That company was Union Carbide, now a fully-owned subsidiary of Dow Chemical.
Today, thirty-two years later, the victims of that corporate crime have yet to receive justice. Union Carbide, and its current parent Dow Chemical, have been absconding from Indian courts. The abandoned factory, its chemicals, and toxic waste continue to infect, deform, and kill the people of Bhopal.
Dow, with the help of the U.S. Department of Justice, continues to defy Indian courts. They ignore court notices summoning Dow to appear in the ongoing criminal case. Since August 2014, the Department of Justice has blocked four notices issued by the Bhopal Court without sending them to Dow Chemical, as required under an international treaty with India.
Enough is Enough!
There are many reasons we are natural allies with the people of Bhopal in their struggle for justice against Dow Chemicals.
We do not support the US government shielding companies from the law. We want corporations to be held accountable for their criminal acts. Senator Sanders has emphasized corporate accountability many times. We should support the people of Bhopal as they demand that the US government serve the court notices to Dow.
We want to fix the democratic system and stop elections from being bought and paid for by special interests and corporations. Between 2013 and 2014, 10 chemical companies and organizations spent more than $154 million lobbying Congress and the federal government. The top spender, Dow Chemical, spent more than $14 million. Dow Chemical and the billionaire class continue to marginalize people’s needs with for-profit agendas infiltrating OUR political system. We cannot allow campaign politics to go on as usual. So long as companies control politicians, public interest will be sacrificed for corporate interests, like in Bhopal. We must GET MONEY OUT OF POLITICS.
We care about our food, health, and environment. We have a right to know what’s in the food we eat. Bernie Sanders has been fighting to label foods with Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO). Vermont, the state Bernie represents, is the first state to require GMO labeling. Dow and others are pouring money to defeat GMO labeling, even though more than 90% of Americans want GMO labeling.
Dow Chemical has a long record of violating the health, safety, and well-being of consumers and Earth. Dow plants in Michigan account for over 95% of emissions of the cancer-causing dioxin in the state. After highly contaminating Morrisonville, Louisiana, Dow began a campaign in 1989 to buy out and relocate nearly all of Morrisonville’s 300 citizens to try to avoid the bad publicity and expense of a lawsuit. Before they closed their chemical factory in Bhopal, they dumped the waste improperly, polluting the city’s groundwater, soil, and air.
We want fair trade and humane economics. Bernie has been a vocal critic of the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP). The TPP is terrible for workers, as it promotes outsourcing jobs to low-wage countries; it allows corporations to sue to overturn “Buy American” rules; it rolls back environmental protections to favor corporations. Dow is a vocal supporter of TPP and has used similar free trade agreements to sue governments around the world, attacking regulations protecting communities and the environment from harmful chemicals or mining practices. Dow obtained privileged access to the full text of the TPP even though members of Congress had only limited access.
We care about workers and job safety. Dow has a history of exploiting vulnerable workers, busting unions, and ignoring workers’ exposure to toxic chemicals. For instance, during the 1960s, management at Dow’s facility in Freeport, Texas refused to notify employees of evidence of genetic damage in workers exposed to benzene and epichlorohydrin. Banana workers in Central America have also won cases against Dow for their unsafe workplace practices.
We are angry as hell! And we’re fed up with the iniquities of the U.S. system and generations of leaders sitting idle on issues of injustice. We want ethical leaders like Bernie in our government who actually walk the talk, care about our planet and the dignity and worth of all those inhabiting it. Bhopal is worth our time and fight.
Let Bhopal Feel the Bern!
We understand Bernie’s vision and progressive agenda requires engaged citizens working hard and Feelin’ the Bern together to demand change. Bhopal needs this same engagement. Bhopal needs Bernie supporters to demand justice for Bhopal right now. From May 15 to June 13 Americans can sign the International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal’s petition to the U.S. government to insist that they immediately serve notice to Dow Chemical to attend court in Bhopal on July 13, 2016. The decades of the US government’s protection of Union Carbide and Dow Chemical must end.
Courtney Train campaigned for Senator Sanders in the Kansas Caucus. She supports the struggle for justice in Bhopal.