Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Workers Rights Abridged

Less than five weeks ago, a blogger on the American Civil Liberties Union website applauded Mark Zuckerberg for refusing to censor all offensive speech on Facebook. Vera Eidelman wisely argued

There is no question that giving the government the power to separate truth from fiction and to censor speech on that basis would be dangerous. If you need confirmation, look no further than President Trump’s preposterous co-optation of the term “fake news.” A private company may not do much better, even if it’s not technically bound by the First Amendment to refrain from censorship.

 Less than four weeks later, we read in "Law and Crime" blog

An Iowa woman who was fired from her factory job for saying she hates “fucking Mexicans” is claiming she should be able to collect unemployment benefits because her remark shouldn’t be considered misconduct that would disqualify her. The reason? She says it was normal for people to say things like that at work since President Donald Trump was elected.

An administrative law judge had agreed with that reasoning, saying that Angela Diers shouldn’t have been singled out if other people were also making comments about hating foreigners and black people.

If management wishes all workers to be treated with respect, it must enforce respectful treatment amongst co-workers and supervisors, and apply those expectations consistently throughout the chain of command,” ALJ Beth Scheetz said in her ruling.

If you agree that’s a fairly basic concept and is something management owes its employees, you’re quite reasonable- but in this case wrong because

The state’s Employment Appeals Board didn’t buy that, though, and overruled the decision, saying Diers could not collect unemployment, the Des Moines Register reported.

“It was 7 o’clock in the morning, or 6:30 in the morning, and here’s Lindsey, dancing and singing Mexican,” Diers reportedly said at a hearing. “It’s, like, ‘What are you doing?’ And then she said something about Cinco de Mayo. And that’s when I said I hated Mexicans.”

The reaction?

“She just kind of looked at me,” Diers said. “I go, ‘’’Im sorry, Lindsey, if you don’t like what I said, but I’m not a Mexican fan.'”

Diers was fired a few days later, but didn’t see what the big deal was.

“There has been talk on the floor: Some people don’t like blacks, certain people don’t like Mexicans, certain people don’t like foreigners. We talk, and then we just move on.”

It was 40 years ago that neo-Nazis self-identifying as the "National Socialist Party of America" filed for a permit to march in Skokie, a suburb of Chicago in which resided thousands of Holocaust survivors. Denied a permit, the Nazis- defended by the ACLU- filed suit and the ban was overturned in the US Supreme Court, though by that time the group had made different plans.

The ACLU lost much of its membership because of its decision to represent the National Socialists. However- and even though the venue was selected in order to incite violence- the ACLU always has prided itself on defending the free-speech rights of very unpopular organization- then and presently. (The views on the video below are of the speaker only, and don't necessarily represent the views of management etc.)

And now in Iowa an employee has made a biased remark against a group defined by its national background, and which has been the subject of tremendous political controversy. "Mexicans" were so, even before candidate Donald Trump labeled them as criminals and rapists, although he has incited a wealth of bigoted comments since that time. People recognize that.

Angela Diers not only lost her job but her right to unemployment compensation. Speech "about the issues of the day," notes the ACLU website, "often happens in the workplace, so employee speech and privacy must be protected."

The good news, therefore, is that we can expect the American Civil Liberties Union, which supports the right to free speech of all manner of reprehensible characters, to enter the dispute on the side of a worker who is being denied a right to free expression and to earn a living.. The bad news is that if we do expect that, we will be gravely disappointed.

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