15. JOB BLACKMAIL

Last September, Defense Secretary Caspar W. Weinberger warned that a $10 billion cut in military spending would cost 350,000 jobs.

Interior Secretary James Watt defended opening up offshore oil and gas exploration by saying that the nation is divided into two camps: "those who want to preserve everything" and "those who like to have jobs."

Both these men were lying. Nonetheless, these statements and others like them have been well publicized and there is a widespread belief that environmental regulations cost jobs and strangle the economy. According to researchers Richard Kazis and Richard Grossman, that is a corporate myth perpetuated by the media.

Further, they say "Employers and polluters don't want people to know the facts. They would rather scare us into believing the myth that we must choose between our jobs and our environment ... between our economic well-being and our health. That's job blackmail."

("Forget the facts once in a while. Counter the activists not with facts but with closed factory gates, empty schools, cold and dark houses and sad children." -- Frank B. Shants, Public Service Company of New Hampshire, Builders of Seabrook nuclear plant.)

The facts, according to Kazis and Grossman, are that jobs are created (in air and water pollution control in both the public and private sectors); jobs are saved (in areas like fishing, forestry, tourism, agriculture, and food and beverage and leisure and outdoor recreation industries); few jobs have been lost because of environmental laws; and environmental regulation had little impact on inflation.

Further, given the extraordinary costs of cleaning up environmental disasters like those at Love Canal and Times Beach, there can be a significant saving of taxpayer dollars in sound environmental regulation.

Unfortunately, as long as job blackmail is practiced by employers, given credibility by politicians, and perpetuated by the media, people will believe they must choose between their jobs and their health and environmental protection.

SOURCES:

Fear at Work: Job Blackmail Labor and the Environment, by Richard Kazis and Richard L. Grossman, The Pilgrim Press, New York, 1982; New York Times, 1/15/83, "Job Blackmail," by Kazis and Grossman.