1) Goldman Sachs
The banking giant makes for an easy target, but it’s one of the country’s most hated companies for a reason. The whole financial industry is rife with companies known for contributing to the financial crisis, tolerating sexual harassment in the workplace, and creating a toxic environment for employees, but Goldman Sachs occupies a special role in financial hell.
As with the financial industry, the oil and gas industry presents a case of “how can you pick just one?” Offenders like British Petroleum, infamous for the Deepwater Horizon spill in 2010, Exxon, home of the Exxon-Valdez oil spill, or Chevron, culprit behind substantial pollution in Richmond, Calif., one of the state’s poorest communities, give Shell a run for its money.
The company has been involved in large oil spills of its own, including a recent and highly destructive incident in the Niger Delta. Critics of the firm’s African operations—including those involved in suits against the company—charge that Shell has been complicit in rape, torture, murder, union-busting, abuse of foreign workers, and serious environmental crimes.
Worker abuse isn’t, however, limited to the company’s overseas facilities. Earlier this year, a former Shell employee accused the company of firing her in retaliation for reporting sexual harassment aboard an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico. The company’s also under fire for its practices in the Arctic, lest you think the problems with its oil operations are primarily an overseas issue.
3) Gap, Inc.
After the horrific Rana Plaza factory collapse in Bangladesh, Gap was one of numerous companies to reject a proposal for better oversight over working conditions at overseas factories—and given the company’s history of past involvement with child labor and other worker abuses, it didn’t sit well. The company continues to insist that the use of child labor is a contractor problem, not one the company condones.
Even with Obamacare, insurance companies remain unpopular with Americans, because their dubious business practices have survived the Affordable Care Act. While such firms are more stealthy when it comes to raising premiums and avoiding payouts for covered services, they’re still at it, and Wellpoint is one of the worst. The firm even stirred the normally lethargic Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to give Wellpoint a firm warning on its practices—and penalties when it comes to the type of insurance plans it can offer.
5) Conagra Foods
Conagra’s multitude of sins are daunting when compared with the agriculture giant’s long list of brands. Fans of Bertolli, David’s, and Chef Boyardee, among many others, might want to consider putting those foods back on the shelves.
In a shocking and highly critical 2001 expose at Mother Jones, Eric Schlosser—of Fast Food Nation fame—reported on the horrific conditions on Conagra’s U.S.-based kill floors. “In some American slaughterhouses,” he wrote, “more than three-quarters of the workers are not native English speakers; many can’t read any language, and many are [undocumented] immigrants. … The golden rule in meatpacking plants is ‘The Chain Will Not Stop.’”
Workers might be severely injured, but the line keeps going. Unionization efforts in slaughterhouses have been extremely difficult due to the company’s union-busting practices as well as the challenge involved in organizing workers with a high turnover rate.
6) Koch Industries
Perhaps a given on any list of terrible companies in America, Koch Industries—the second largest privately held firm in the U.S.—owns numerous huge holdings in a range of industries. It’s nearly impossible to purchase commercial products that haven’t been touched by the Koch brothers, from printer paper and gasoline to agricultural products. But for those inclined to stay away from their goods, BoycottKochBrothers.com helpfully breaks down their products for you.