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US Corporations: General Electric in Mexico



Ronald Reagan and I have one thing in common: we both worked for General Electric. He was well-paid for public relations work and went on to become the President of the United States. I was paid a nominal salary for running then University of the Air, which ceased to exist when an unbalanced State Department officer in Ecuador charged me with interviewing public figures who were unfriendly to the US. He said there was only one person in Ecuador, a Jesuit priest, who did not hate the US. He was removed from the embassy. General Electric in Mexico is now engaged in the typical efforts of corporations to create friendly relations with the community. From Mexico, Raśl Escalanta writes:

"My wife manages General Electric's community relations here in Mexico. I thought you'd find this sort of experiment interesting. Although it doesn't address directly the issues you raised in your last mailing on corporate governance and transparency, I think it is complementary in that it shows some of the good that private sector companies increasingly do while trying to improve their public image and in trying to enrich their employees' lives by making it easy for them to increase their social involvement.

As background, let me say that Regina is very dedicated personally to social improvement. One of the programs whose implementations she is leading is a pen-pal program between "white-collar" GE employees and primary and middle-school students in Santa Fe, a relatively run-down neighborhood in Mexico City. The idea is for this to evolve into a mentoring program where low-income students are stimulated to continue studying, and provided with help on the way, by successful professionals who have a much wider perspective of the world.

The message that started this chain of e-mails was sent her by one of the Pen-Pal volunteers who was evidently moved by his meeting with the child he is corresponding with. Incidentally, this volunteer has just been "let go" from GE. However, from what he writes, I very much doubt he harbors ill-feelings towards the company and the people who make it up in Mexico.

GE was recently referred to in the press as being suspect of smoothing revenue flows, and has also been tarnished by past excesses like polluting the Hudson River, colluding with other firms on bidding for government electricity generation contracts, etc. However, when confronted by the strength of volunteering in the company, and the social convictions of many of the employees, one is forced to think twice about condemning the company.

Is the face of capitalism changing? Are companies becoming "nicer" in order to please their employees? Or are things like this just a cynical attempt to increase the bottom line?"

Ronald Hilton - 6/19/02


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