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The Health of Children and Consumers Is Threatened by Conservative Push for Corporate Speech Rights

Some pro-business federal judges have shockingly approved a constitutional right for big companies to avoid revealing product dangers on labels.

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Judge Alsup ordered the city to rewrite its fact sheet, which is to be submitted to his court for approval. Those revisions will undoubtedly be weaker than health officials wanted. But buried in the Court’s interim ruling was wording that was less militant than other activist judges who have recently ruled in corporate First Amendment rights.

“There really will be little irreparable injury in complying with the fact-sheet so long as the corrections are included to mitigate the nonfactual, misleading and alarmist tenor of the fact-sheet,” Alsup wrote. “The San Francisco program is not aimed at slowing sales. It is aimed at precautions for consumer use and presupposes that all sales will flow unabated. Industry profits will not sag.”

Taken alone, that wording was dangling a carrot before the city in a ruling where Alsup gave the wireless industry almost everything it wanted. But the CTIA-The Wireless Association, the national trade group that sued the city, responded by saying it still was not enough. “CTIA respectfully disagrees with the Court's determination,” its press release said, and “is considering its options regarding further proceedings.”

In other words, in yet another corporate speech versus the public interest fight, corporate lawyers—with virtually bottomless corporate checkbooks behind them—are betting they will find an even more business-friendly courtroom, completely censoring the public’s right to know any health information about radiation when buying a cell phone.

Steven Rosenfeld covers democracy issues for AlterNet and is the author of "Count My Vote: A Citizen's Guide to Voting" (AlterNet Books, 2008).