Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Gephardt Urges Business `Code' to Boost U.S. Living Standard

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Gephardt Urges Business `Code' to Boost U.S. Living Standard

Article excerpt

House Minority Leader Richard A. Gephardt proposed a "Code of Conduct" for U.S. businesses Wednesday to raise the U.S. standard of living in the face of competition from low-paying companies in other countries.

Modeled on successful corporate examples like Harley-Davidson and Anheuser-Busch Cos. Inc., Gephardt's code calls for businesses to share profits and power with workers and to demonstrate "a commitment to long-term success and survival over short-term profits."

Tax breaks and trade agreements would be conditioned on the adoption of the code, and the government would be barred from dealing with companies that do not sign on.

Gephardt, D-Mo., announced his plan in a speech to the Economic Policy Institute, a labor-oriented research organization. His address expanded on themes that Gephardt has been sounding for years and which he has intensified since the Democratic Party's heavy losses in November.

The speech predicted opposition from Republicans and sought to reclaim the disaffected middle class that voted GOP in the last election. Although Gephardt sent a draft of his speech to the White House, aides said serious talks would not take place until he fleshes out the details.

While Gephardt mentioned President Bill Clinton only once, his speech referred twice to House Majority Leader Dick Armey, R-Texas, and several times to the Republicans. He said the Republicans were "attempting to force us into a global economic steeplechase with no rules, no order and no standards - until most Americans are working longer days and earning Third World wages.

". . . They don't see lower wages, lower environmental standards and lower labor standards as a problem; they see them as the solution," Gephardt said.

Gephardt said that in the last 12 years, workers got only a third as much in pay increases as they gave in increased productivity. He criticized corporations who he said have been "caught in the almost unconscious pursuit of profit" while "families are being destroyed. . . . People are under tremendous stress."

Gephardt proposed changing securities laws to provide for a special class of companies that follow the code and would be permitted to switch from quarterly to annual reporting, freeing them "to make the kind of decisions that promote the long-term health of both profits and people. …

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