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©_2002_Authorized and_paid_for_by_the Committee_to_Elect Vivian_Houghton Attorney_General, 800_N_West_St., Wilmington_DE_19801

September 7, 2002

Dear Union Brothers and Sisters,

The state Attorney General's job is to enforce state laws. Theoretically, this means enforcing those laws equitably so there is no difference in how the laws are applied to rich and poor, whites and people of color, and so on.  

Unfortunately, for years the Delaware Attorney General's office has used its power more to reinforce existing inequities within the state than to correct those inequities. This has been true whether Republicans or Democrats held the office.  The end result is that Delaware, known nationally as the "Corporate State" because of its pro-business and pro-banking laws, helps to set trends in which, as author Holly Sklar has said, "While average workers are still digging their way out of years of falling real wages, CEOs are soaring to heights once reserved for a handful of robber barons."  

Sklar is not exaggerating.  In 1980, the average CEO made 42 times what the average factory worker made. By 1990, the average CEO made 85 times as much. Today the gap is even worse, and almost unimaginable: the average CEO receives 475 times more than workers in salary, bonus and stock options.  

Yet these same CEO's -- and their boards of directors-- whose profits mount because of the labor expended by their employees, often don't do anything to return the favor to those employees.  Instead -- and Delaware is living proof of this -- management cuts jobs, fights unions, disinvests in communities, frequently keeps faulty books and in some cases, as in the recent Enron scandal (Enron has 685 subsidiaries on Delaware), defraud their employees in ways that push those employees to the edge of financial ruin.  

And as you well know, the scare of financial ruin isn't just a problem for Enron employees.  Just recently, it was revealed that the workers' pensions at the Metachem chemical company in Delaware City are in jeopardy because of the firm's bankruptcy filing.  Not only is the company leaving these workers in potential ruin, but it has also contributed to the ruination of the local environment by leaving behind millions of tons of by-product materials and chemical waste.  Too often such companies are respecters of neither their workers, the environment, nor community rights..  As a result, job security is gone, replaced by increased stress for working families.  Just look at the number of jobs lost over recent years at "strong" local companies like DuPont and G.M.  

And what kinds of jobs are those lost ones being replaced by in the local economy?  The answer: primarily lower-paying service jobs that push down family incomes. But even those manufacturing jobs which remain in the state don't help the economy as much as they once did, since those that remain are for the most part lower-paying ones; this has dragged the state's current average manufacturing wage down to $11.79 per hour. So, whether in the service or manufacturing sectors, people are employed, but increasingly at lower-paying jobs.  No wonder that the recent census numbers show that from the late 1970s until now the income gap between the wealthiest 20% of Delaware's families and the poorest 20% has grown by a staggering 39%.  This is horrible news for the poor and horrible news for working people in general. 

You'd think that with Delaware's economy characterized by such inequity, the Attorney General's office would take special care to insure that there is no similar inequity within the  criminal justice system.  But whether under the control of Republicans or Democrats, the Attorney General's office has mostly turned its head the other way when problems related to the unfair application of the law have arisen.  

For instance, although Delawareans must live with the 4th highest cancer rate in the country and one of the nation's worst pollution records, the Attorney General's office has refused to investigate DNREC's failure to properly prosecute companies that break environmental laws. Equally problematic is the Attorney General office's refusal to investigate whether or not companies that receive tax breaks, land grants and other incentives for job creation in the state adhere to the agreements which gave rise to the incentives.  When a company downsizes or relocates, workers lose their jobs, period, but the companies, on the other hand, often find ways to circumvent their job-creation promises.  This is inequity in action.  

Other issues the Attorney General's office should deal with include:  

  • A Living Wage.  From 1990-2000 the number of Delaware families living in poverty increased 23%.  A programmatic effort must be made to reverse this trend.  As state Attorney General I will support the replacement of the state's prevailing wage law with a living wage law with more teeth in it. The same workers covered by current prevailing wage legislation would still be covered by the new law, but the new law would be broader in scope than the prevailing wage legislation and include higher wages and greater benefits for a far wider spectrum of workers.  

  • Education. In 2000, when parents and teachers expressed concern about public educational "reforms" that might hurt rather than help students, The News Journal lashed out at them by stating that public education was being undermined by certain special interest groups (e.g., teachers unions) and ignorant parents who didn't appreciate how "the business community initiated the reform movement and . . . nurtured it faithfully over the years."  Why was The News Journal so upset?  Answer:  because it believed that local corporations' business needs should shape school curricula and testing methods.  I believe differently; I believe that although education should foster knowledge of how economies operate, it is ultimately student needs and educator analyses that should shape curricula and testing methods.

  • Getting Tough on Law-Breaking Companies.  If a worker commits a felony, she or he is jailed.  Yet the state routinely makes companies, whose environmental violations contribute to Delaware's high cancer rate, pay only token fines.  As Attorney General, I will possess the toughness to cancel a company's corporate charter if the company either commits a gross violation of its charter or repeatedly violates state  regulations.

  • Racial Equity in the Criminal Justice System.  As in other parts of the country, one of the most problematic aspects of Delaware's criminal justice system is the degree to which blacks and other minorities are disproportionately arrested and incarcerated.   For every white person incarcerated in Delaware, 9.4 African-Americans are placed in jail. This ranks Delaware number 19 among the states in its ratio of black to white incarcerations.  As Attorney General, I will eliminate Delaware's arrest and sentencing biases and make the law's application race-neutral.  

  • Health Care.  Delaware ranks number 7 in the nation in per capita income but only 32nd in the quality of health care.  As Delaware Attorney General, I will scrutinize insurance companies' behavior and vigorously prosecute any individual company or group of companies that  illegally deny customers health care procedures, medications or office visits that the customers' health warrants.  Also, I will use my position to advocate for a system of justice that includes a vision of health care as a basic human right that should be taken out of the hands of for-profit insurance companies and overseen instead by a single-payer system.   In this regard I support House Bill   552, The Delaware Health Security Act.  

Politics today is almost entirely corporate driven.  Let's change this.  Let's work in coalition to put more justice into the criminal justice system.  Please support my campaign which is unflinching in its commitment to equity under the law and the right of working people to earn a decent living.  If you have any further questions, contact me at 658-0518 (work) or 652-0670 (home) or by  email:   agcampaign@vivianhoughton.com.  

In solidarity,

Vivian A. Houghton
Attorney General Candidate
Green Party