HIGHTOWER: Corporate Extortion Comes To Cashmere

Extortion by corporations has become an accepted part of "business ethics," which is why that term has become such an oxymoron.Such extortions are rampant -- ranging from pro-football owners who tell cities they'll move their team out of town unless taxpayers build them a new luxury sports palace ... to global corporations that tell employees they'll move their jobs to Asia unless employees take a major pay cut.Such thievery has been so profitable for bigtime corporate cutthroats that now even smaller companies are trying to get in on the action. The New York Times reports that Liberty Orchards, a firm that makes fruit-and-nut candies called Aplets and Cotlets, is playing the "extortion game" with the people of Cashmere, Washington.Cashmere has been home to Liberty Orchards since 1918, but suddenly the candymaker is threatening to pull-up stakes and abandon the town unless its demands are met. One demand is that all highway signs and the town's official letterhead be redone to say: "Cashmere, Home of Aplets and Cotlets." A second demand is that the town's two main streets be renamed Aplets Avenue and Cotlets Avenue. Third, the company wants the town council to sell City Hall to it and build new parking lots to serve as a tourist center for Liberty Orchards. And (get this!) Liberty Orchards want taxpayers to undertake an Aplets and Cotlets advertising campaign to promote tourism.Another local business owner calls this "absolute corporate greed," saying "They have asked us to sellout this town."Hey, says Greg Taylor, president of the candy company, "We've done a lot for this community and never asked for anything in return. There's got to be a quid pro quo."This is Jim Hightower saying ... Hey right back at you Greg -- what makes you such a special ducky? There are plenty of people who have done a lot for Cashmere, and you don't see them trying to extort freebies from their neighbors do you? Put on the dunce cap Greg and go stand in the corner.Source:"Old fashioned town sours on candymaker's new pitch" by Timothy Egan. New York Times: Oct. 6, 1997.

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