Fired for Wearing the Wrong Color Shirt: The Scary Truth About Our Lack of Workplace Protections

The Republicans have been anti-union since before I was born.  Since the election of Nixon they have systematically destroyed the unions and under mined any control workers have had over their conditions at work.

One of the greatest abominations of all have been the Orwellian named “Right to Work Laws” aka “At Will Employment Laws” which leave workers with very few rights.

These right wing Republican laws give employers the right to hire and fire at will thus undermining any and all anti-discrimination measures or affirmative action measures.

Couple this with how employers have been given the right to drug test, demand people’s Face Book names and passwords and we find ourselves living in a corporate police state where we are not considered citizens with any rights.

They don’t even have to make up an excuse for terminating an employee who may well have been doing an extremely good job, regularly earning promotions.

All it takes is for a superior to get a bug up his or her ass and they can suddenly announce you are terminated.  They don’t even have to attempt to find cause unless they are trying to avoid paying unemployment.

Without unions most employees are powerless to fight a corporation, which has all sorts of mercenary lawyers under contract.

Even with a lawyer, chances are the best the terminated employee can hope for is a small settlement and blacklisting.

From Alternet:

Most American workers labor under the auspices of employment-at-will, which allows employers to hire, fire and promote for good reasons, bad reasons, or no reason at all.

By Jake Blumgart
April 3, 2012

On March 16, at least 14 employees of the Elizabeth R. Wellborn law firm, located in Deerfield Beach, Florida, wore orange shirts to work. For this style choice, they were marched into a conference room and summarily fired. Wellborn’s husband declared that the shirts were a protest against working conditions at the 275-worker law firm, and that management would not stand for such behavior. (Early reporting claimed the workers’ dress merely signified a way to easily organize a happy hour outing, although it later came out that while that was true for some, others were dressed in the color of prison uniforms to protest draconian new work rules.)

Aren’t such tyrannical, arbitrary and callous acts illegal? Can management just throw you out on your ear, upending your life and endangering your ability to support yourself, for wearing the wrong shirt? Freedom of speech, freedom of expression, right?


The First Amendment and many of the Constitution’s other protections only extend to the government, not to private employers. Freedom of speech and expression are not protected in the private-sector, nonunion workplace. You could be fired for, say, wearing a pin advocating a particular political party. You could also be fired for sporting a smiley face pin.

“People assume they have a lot more protection at work than they actually do,” says Judith M. Conti, federal advocacy coordinator for the National Employment Law Center (NELP). “People also assume they have some right to be treated decently, and fairly, and respectfully at the workplace. They have the right to freedom from discrimination based on certain immutable characteristics like sex, race and age, but as long as treatment at work isn’t related to one of those characteristics you can be treated badly with no legal recourse. It’s kind of a free-for-all.”

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Jenna Talackova Calls for a More Inclusive Miss Universe Competition


by Matt Kane, GLAAD’s Associate Director of Entertainment Media
Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Following the announcement that the Miss Universe pageant would allow transgender contestant Jenna Talackova to compete, and that GLAAD would be working with Miss Universeto open the competition up to the transgender community, Talackova says she wants pageant owner Donald Trump to make sure “no one else has to suffer the discrimination I have had to endure.”  The statement was read at a press conference with Talackova’s attorney Gloria Allred in Los Angeles today.

Yesterday, GLAAD announced plans to continue working with The Miss Universe Organization to review current policies and update for full inclusion of transgender women.

GLAAD contacted the Miss Universe Organization last week after Jenna Talackova was disqualified and called on the Miss Universe Organization to review her case, as well as open the competition to transgender women.

Talackova’s full statement from today is as follows:

When I was selected as a finalist, I was thrilled.  I had always dreamed of being in the Miss Universe competition, and having an opportunity to represent my country, Canada.

After I was chosen for the finals, I was told that there was an issue that had arisen regarding my being a contestant, and that the final decision was going to be made by the Miss Universe organization.

Then I was told by representatives of the Miss Universe Canada Pageant that I could not compete, because the rule stated that I had to be a “naturally born” woman, and they said I was not.

I am a woman.  I was devastated and I felt that excluding me for the reason that they gave was unjust.

I have never asked for any special consideration.  I only wanted to compete.

I saw the statement by Mr. Trump’s representative that was issued yesterday, and I find it quite confusing.

I wish Mr. Trump would just say, in plain words, whether or not I will be allowed to compete and, if I win, whether I will be allowed to represent Canada in the Miss Universe competition.

I also want Mr. Trump to clearly state that this rule will be eliminated because I do not want any other woman to suffer the discrimination that I have to endure.

The Miss Universe Organization said in a statement last night:

“The Miss Universe Organization will allow Jenna Talackova to compete in the 2012 Miss Universe Canada pageant provided she meets the legal gender recognition requirements of Canada, and the standards established by other international competitions.”

In speaking for her client, Allred reiterated that Trump and the Miss Universe pageant needed to clearly rewrite the competition rules to be inclusive of transgender contestants.   GLAAD’s VP of Programs and Communication Herndon Graddick said yesterday that “The Miss Universe Organization made the right decision (allowing Talackova to compete) and has taken an important first step.  Now, GLAAD urges the Organization to include all women and use the incident to speak out in support of the transgender community.”

Graddick continued: “So many women today do not have equal opportunities for employment, housing and safety simply because they are transgender. The Miss Universe Organization should look to state non-discrimination laws and institutions including the Olympics, NCAA and The CW’s America’s Next Top Model, which do not discriminate against transgender women.”

The Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition’s Executive Director Gunner Scott also released a statement about Talackova’s inclusion in the pageant today, attributing the victory to the advocacy work of groups like GLAAD and the MTPC, while also reminding readers that “this situation is not unlike discrimination in employment for transgender people. Many transgender youth and adults do not get the same opportunities, even when qualified, because of gender identity discrimination.”

Data Mining You: How the Intelligence Community Is Creating a New American World

From Michael Moore’s Blog:

By Tom Engelhardt
April 3rd, 2012

Crossposted from TomDispatch

I was out of the country only nine days, hardly a blink in time, but time enough, as it happened, for another small, airless room to be added to the American national security labyrinth.  On March 22nd, Attorney General Eric Holder and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, Jr. signed off on new guidelines allowing the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC), a post-9/11 creation, to hold on to information about Americans in no way known to be connected to terrorism — about you and me, that is — for up to five years.  (Its previous outer limit was 180 days.)  This, Clapper claimed, “will enable NCTC to accomplish its mission more practically and effectively.”

Joseph K., that icon of single-lettered anonymity from Franz Kafka’s novel The Trial, would undoubtedly have felt right at home in Clapper’s Washington.  George Orwell would surely have had a few pungent words to say about those anodyne words “practically and effectively,” not to speak of “mission.”

For most Americans, though, it was just life as we’ve known it since September 11, 2001, since we scared ourselves to death and accepted that just about anything goes, as long as it supposedly involves protecting us from terrorists.  Basic information or misinformation, possibly about you, is to be stored away for five years — or until some other attorney general and director of national intelligence think it’s even more practical and effective to keep you on file for 10 years, 20 years, or until death do us part — and it hardly made a ripple.

If Americans were to hoist a flag designed for this moment, it might read “Tread on Me” and use that classic illustration of the boa constrictor swallowing an elephant from Saint-Exupéry’s The Little Prince.  That, at least, would catch something of the absurdity of what the National Security Complex has decided to swallow of our American world.

Oh, and in those nine days abroad, a new word surfaced on my horizon, one just eerie and ugly enough for our new reality: yottabyte.  Thank National Security Agency (NSA) expert James Bamford for that.  He wrote a piece for Wired magazine on a super-secret, $2 billion, one-million-square-foot data center the NSA is building in Bluffdale, Utah.  Focused on data mining and code-breaking and five times the size of the U.S. Capitol, it is expected to house information beyond compare, “including the complete contents of private emails, cell phone calls, and Google searches, as well as all sorts of personal data trails — parking receipts, travel itineraries, bookstore purchases, and other digital ‘pocket litter.’”

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Court rules Minn. DOMA doesn’t apply to some transgender marriages

From The American Independent:

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

A federal court judge in Minnesota ruled on Monday that a marriage between a man and a transgender woman was legal under Minnesota law and that a health insurance plan could not drop the woman from her husband’s health benefits. The judge said that because one person is male and the other legally transitioned to female, the couple qualifies as legally married under the state’s Defense of Marriage Act.

The case hinged on the marriage of Christine and Calvin Radtke. The two were married in July 2005 in Goodhue County in southeastern Minnesota. Calvin works for United Parcel Service and enrolled himself and his wife in his union’s health plan. Christine had legally transitioned from male to female several years earlier.

But after Christine’s physician mentioned her transgender status in her medical file in 2008, the union’s health plan terminated her coverage.

The Miscellaneous Drivers and Helpers Union Local #638 Health, Welfare, Eye and Dental Fund sent a letter to the Radtkes stating that as of April 2010, Christine would be dropped from her husband’s health-care plan.

“The Fund has learned, for the first time, that Christine underwent a male to female sex reassignment surgery prior to your marriage,” the health fund administrators wrote.

“In reviewing the terms of the Fund, it is the judgment of the Claims Administrator that despite the amendment of Christine’s birth certificate and your subsequent marriage, the basis for your marriage is not one that is currently recognized under any express provisions of Minnesota Law,” the letter said. “Accordingly, Christine is not an eligible dependent under the Fund.

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Conservatives’ Twisted, Racist Logic in the Trayvon Martin Case

From Alternet:

Just because more African Americans are incarcerated, it does not mean a given individual is more likely to commit a crime.

By Chauncey DeVega
April 2, 2012

The killing of Trayvon Martin is a Rorschach test for American society. This tragedy reveals a deep divide in our political imaginations and communities. It also is a mirror for the fissures of race, ideology and party that still vex and befuddle us to the present.

Some folks imagine themselves, their children, and members of their communities as Trayvon Martin. To their eyes, Trayvon is a symbol of how American society all too often devalues the lives of people of color.

Other people imagine themselves as George Zimmerman. To them, he is a victim, a good man who only wanted to protect his neighborhood from crime and “suspicious” people. Moreover, the assertion that George Zimmerman acted out of racial bias in his hunting and killing of Trayvon Martin is personally offensive to them.

Because Zimmerman is “them,” and “they” are Zimmerman, he is quite simply a “law-abiding” citizen who is being made a victim of “reverse racism,” “race hustlers,” and the “liberal media.

Black men are scary, frightening and suspicious to George Zimmerman and those people who think like him. These beliefs are part of a matrix of racism, prejudice and stereotypes that are reproduced and disseminated throughout American culture. Ultimately, many on the Right see George Zimmerman as a hero figure. For voters primed on a toxic mix of conservative rhetoric that bundles together such issues as race, guns, and crime, George Zimmerman is a fetish and totem for their wish fulfillment.

In the post-civil rights era, old fashioned racism is out of style. Consequently, supporting George Zimmerman necessarily requires the shaming and smearing of Trayvon Martin. Perhaps I am too generous, but I would like to believe that even for the most strident conservative authoritarians and colorblind racists there would be some level of cognitive dissonance to be overcome in order to justify the killing of an unarmed black teenager who was guilty of no more than holding a bag of Skittles, and walking home in the rain wearing a hooded sweatshirt.

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What’s behind the anti-anti-bullying backlash

From The Guardian UK:

Even as states and schools try to put in place anti-bullying policies, the Christian right is mobilising to undo them, Tuesday 3 April 2012

For four years at his Tennessee high school, Jacob Rogers was bullied for being gay. He repeatedly appealed to school administrators for help, but didn’t get much. Around Thanksgiving of last year, it got so bad that he quit going to school. In early December, not long after turning 18, he killed himself. Jacob, who lived with his grandmother, left her with passwords to his phone and email accounts, so that she and investigators might understand why he chose to take his own life.

In the recently released film Bully, filmmaker Lee Hirsch reminds us just how much cruelty young people are capable of displaying toward one another. The documentary records the grief and the determination of the parents of Ty, a boy who committed suicide at the age of 11, as they fight to change the system that served their son so poorly. It follows Alex, who faces daily torment on the school bus. And it tells the story of Kelby, a one-time star athlete in Tuttle, Oklahoma, who comes out as a lesbian – only to be kicked out of the school sports team amid an outpouring of hate.

Thirteen million children are bullied every year, says Hirsch. According to the American Psychological Association, approximately “40% to 80% of school-age children experience bullying at some point during their school careers.” Suicides like Jacob’s take place somewhere in America every single month. According to a Yale University study, children who are bullied are two to nine times more likely to end their own lives. Kids are bullied for all sorts of reasons: for being fat, shy, poor, rich and for no reason at all, although everyone familiar with the phenomenon knows that sexual orientation is a common excuse.

Solutions to the problem of bullying aren’t easy. They have to do more with changing the culture than changing the legal codes. Families bear the chief responsibility for teaching their children to respect others. Schools can help, though, by educating students and teachers about the problem, setting up clear and effective policies for dealing with cases and establishing accountability, and fostering a safe and welcoming environment for all students. State legislators in New Jersey, Michigan, and Illinois, among other places, have taken important steps in this direction with useful anti-bullying bills. The merits of specific policies, and the money and time they will consume, can be debated, but we can all agree that bullying is a bad thing and that we should be looking for solutions. Right?

Wrong. A number of groups that claim to represent the “Christian viewpoint” have come out in vigorous opposition to anti-bullying initiatives, and their opposition has to do with a fundamental question about exactly what we think bullying is.

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Arizona Legislators Trying To Declare Pregnancy Two Weeks Prior To Conception

From RH Reality Check:

by Amanda Marcotte, RH Reality Check
April 2, 2012

The past few months, we’ve seen the nation wake up to many anti-choice assaults on women’s basic right to control their fertility, especially with regards to imposing forced ultrasounds and numerous attacks on access to basic contraception. But one of the other favorite anti-choice approaches to maximizing the pain and suffering of women as punishment for sex has largely gone unnoticed by many outside of the pro-choice activist community: bans on abortions after 20 weeks. It’s understandable that it’s hard to whip people up about this particular situation. After all, abortions after 20 weeks are relatively rare. Only 1.5% of abortions occur after the 20th week, and the vast majority of those that do occur are done for medical reasons, or because legal and financial obstacles–like those put in place by lawmakers–caused a delay. While, if they knew their personal stories, most people would certainly sympathize with women in need of post-20 week abortions, a certain amount of reproductive rights fatigue is setting in. There’s only so many hours in the day, and anti-choicers know if they just keep throwing restrictions on access at us, some will slip through the cracks.

But, as exhausting as it is, we need to pay attention to and resist post-20 week bans on abortion. That’s because it’s cruel on its surface, but also because legislators are using 20 week bans in order to smuggle in other items of more importance to them than simply making it harder for a slim minority of women seeking abortions to get them. The most obvious thing they’re trying to do is set anti-science precedent. Since these bans are based on the false, unscientific claim that fetuses at 20 weeks can feel pain, if they’re allowed to stand, it opens the door for more laws based on straight-up lies to be passed. These laws are also being used to challenge the requirement set out in Roe v Wade that a woman’s health and life should trump that of the misogynist desire to keep her pregnant at all costs.

Legislators have had so much success smuggling in ulterior motives with 20-week bans that they’re now looking for ways to expand the amount of hard right anti-choice nonsense they can attach to those bills. The most recent—and extreme—example is Arizona. There, lawmakers are writing a 20-week abortion ban that starts counting off at the first day of a woman’s period. Yes, they’re arguing that you’re “pregnant” while you’re actually getting your period. In fact, as Kate Sheppard at Mother Jones explains, they’re really trying to steal as many weeks as possible away from women seeking abortion:

Most women ovulate about 14 or 15 days after their period starts, and women can usually get pregnant from sexual intercourse that occured anywhere between five days before ovulation and a day after it. Arizona’s law would start the clock at a woman’s last period—which means, in practice, that the law prohibits abortion later than 18 weeks after a woman actually becomes pregnant.

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Europe Unrecognizable from U.S. Republican Rhetoric

From Slate:

Posted Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Europe is mostly unrecognizable from the U.S. Republican rhetoric. Presidential hopefuls Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich, who face off again in Tuesday’s trio of primaries, often accuse Barack Obama of leading America to “European-style socialism.” The monolithic pejorative works to a point but conveniently overlooks the many economic achievements throughout the continent. On this matter, voters shouldn’t take the candidates seriously, and the candidates might do well to consider Europe more so.

Certain features of the continent’s political economy are of course anathema to U.S. conservatives. For example, U.S. public spending of 42 percent of GDP last year was still lower than all but four of the 27 EU members. And while the mostly state-run healthcare systems in Europe are cheaper than in the United States, ones like Britain’s NHS limit available treatments and involve long waiting times for many procedures. The EU bureaucracy also has a tendency to micromanage in a way that would make Republicans run screaming.

But the nominee wannabes either artfully or ignorantly miss the desirable aspects of Europe’s many and varied economies. Imagine the jubilation if the United States could attain the 4.3 percent growth experienced by Poland last year. Romney and Santorum surely would swap jobs pictures with the Netherlands, where the unemployment rate was 6 percent in February. And for austerity-minded Republicans, euro zone fiscal discipline as a whole is better than in the United States. The euro zone’s 2012 budget deficit is projected by the European Commission to be 3.4 percent of GDP, compared to the Economist’s consensus U.S. forecast of 7.8 percent.

What’s more, a big slug of the GOP agenda seems to be something of a blueprint from Berlin. With a healthy current account surplus, inflation at around 2 percent, unemployment under 7 percent, a budget deficit of just 1.5 percent and a savings rate over 11 percent, Germany offers much to admire.

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Senior citizens continue to bear burden of student loans

From The Washington Post:

By ,
Published: April 1

The burden of paying for college is wreaking havoc on the finances of an unexpected demographic: senior citizens.

New research from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York shows that Americans 60 and older still owe about $36 billion in student loans, providing a rare window into the dynamics of student debt. More than 10 percent of those loans are delinquent. As a result, consumer advocates say, it is not uncommon for Social Security checks to be garnished or for debt collectors to harass borrowers in their 80s over student loans that are decades old.

That even seniors remain saddled with student loans highlights what a growing chorus of lawmakers, economists and financial experts say has become a central conflict in the nation’s higher education system: The long-touted benefits of a college degree are being diluted by rising tuition rates and the longevity of debt.

Some of these older Americans are still grappling with their first wave of student loans, while others took on new debt when they returned to school later in life in hopes of becoming more competitive in the labor force. Many have co-signed for loans with their children or grandchildren to help them afford ballooning tuition.

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