The Hightower Report

All-American Spam adopts an English accent; and big airlines stiff their workers


SPAM DIPLOMACY

Spam is uniquely American, right? This mysterious meatlike concoction in a pull-tab can is a made-in-the-USA icon of American marketing, produced by Hormel Foods up in Minnesota.

I happen to love Spam, and, no, I don't want to know what's in it. I subsisted on fried Spam sandwiches to get me through college, and I've even been a tasting judge of the sometimes-startling Spam concoctions prepared for the renowned Spamarama contest held in Austin for the past 26 years.

But I was stunned – and not a little hurt – to learn that the corporate purveyors of Spam are now trying to hide the Americanism of this potted meat delicacy. It seems that Hormel is concerned that its Spam sales could be hurt in England because of the Brits' rather intense opposition to George W.'s war in Iraq. Indeed, a poll finds that 20% of consumers in Britain, Japan, and elsewhere say they'll shun such identifiably American products as Spam, Marlboro, and Starbucks to protest Bush's my-way-or-the-highway approach to the rest of the world.

To counter this possibility, Hormel has launched a $3.7 million marketing blitz in England in an effort to position Spam as quintessentially British. The ads, featuring typical Brits, portray Spam as a longtime part of the British culture, as though it's a homegrown product with no connection to that place across the pond.

Hormel has even anglicized the Spamarama festival! The Spam Chippie of the Year award is presented to the British fish-and-chip shop that makes the best dish from this pink meat stuff. They also name the Spam Chef of the Year in England, a culinary honor that was recently won by a chap who makes Spam wontons.

Come on, Hormel, stop hiding your beautiful pink piece of Americana under a British bushel. You should strut your stuff as one of the good things from America. Instead of Bush's gunboat diplomacy, show the world Spam diplomacy!


ROBBERY BY BANKRUPTCY

Why is it that when George W. says he's going to "reform" something, I instinctively want to grab my money, my liberties, my family ... and flee to the woods?

For the Bushites, the word reform means "deform," to monkey-wrench the system so the rich get richer ... and the rest of us get schtooked. Still, there's one system crying out for real reform: the bankruptcy process that corporations are using to stiff their employees – letting CEOs simply walk away from binding contracts on wages, health care, and pensions.

At present, the big abusers of employees are United, U.S. Air, Delta, and other major airlines that have been poorly managed and now are being squeezed by their bankers and jet-fuel suppliers. Screaming poverty, these airlines have rushed to bankruptcy court, demanding that judges allow them to abrogate legitimate contracts that they had negotiated in good faith with their pilots, flight attendants, mechanics, and others.

These are loyal, longtime, hard-working employees who already have made concession after concession, giving back billions of dollars that were owed to them. Yet the CEOs are demanding still more, using the federal bankruptcy law as their weapon for this mugging. This one-sided law apparently legalizes end runs to let corporations weasel out of their obligations. What an interesting lesson for all of us who've been taught that a contract is sacrosanct, a legally binding giving of one's word.

Here's my question: Why do the CEOs only target the workers for cost-cutting? Why not tell Exxon and the other fuel suppliers, "No, we can't pay your gouging prices, so we're abrogating those commitments"? Or, why not say to the superwealthy bankers, "You take some of the pain, too"? Why do they only pound their workers?

I don't know about you, but on my flights, I'd rather have a disgruntled banker or fuel supplier than an angry pilot, flight attendant, or mechanic. It's time to fix the bankruptcy law that has legalized the corporate robbery of workers.

For more information on Jim Hightower's work – and to subscribe to his award-winning monthly newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown – visit www.jimhightower.com. You can hear his radio commentaries on KOOP Radio, 91.7FM, weekdays at 10:58am and 12:58pm.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Spam, Hormel Foods, England, George W. Bush, Iraq War, reform, bankruptcy law, labor contracts, airlines, United, U.S. Air, Delta

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