10.09.2009

al franken, hero for justice

I hope you've all heard about this by now, but just in case...

Remember Jamie Leigh Jones? Jones was gang-raped by Halliburton/KBR coworkers in Iraq. The company colluded with their federal-government funders to cover up the incident. I've blogged about Jones several times; links to background below.

From Think Progress:
Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) proposed an amendment to the 2010 Defense Appropriations bill that would withhold defense contracts from companies like KBR "if they restrict their employees from taking workplace sexual assault, battery and discrimination cases to court." Speaking on the Senate floor yesterday, Franken said:

"The constitution gives everybody the right to due process of law... And today, defense contractors are using fine print in their contracts do deny women like Jamie Leigh Jones their day in court.... The victims of rape and discrimination deserve their day in court [and] Congress plainly has the constitutional power to make that happen."

. . .

On the Senate floor, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) spoke against the amendment, calling it "a political attack directed at Halliburton." Franken responded, "This amendment does not single out a single contractor. This amendment would defund any contractor that refuses to give a victim of rape their day in court."

In the end, Franken won the debate. His amendment passed by a 68-30 vote, earning the support of 10 Republican senators including that of newly-minted Florida Sen. George LeMieux. "He did what a senator should do, which was he was working it," LeMieux said in praise of Franken. "He was working for his amendment."

Appearing with Franken after the vote, an elated Jones expressed her deep appreciation. "It means the world to me," she said of the amendment's passage. "It means that every tear shed to go public and repeat my story over and over again to make a difference for other women was worth it."

Now I'm going to do something I haven't done since leaving the US: send a US senator a thank you note. Al Franken is a hero for justice.

Think Progress has video of his speech from the Senate: go here.

Background on Jamie Leigh Jones from this blog:

  • those pesky rape kits, they're always disappearing: the incident and initial cover-up.

  • more on jamie leigh jones's struggle for justice: DoD and DoJ response.

  • u.s. dod will not investigate kbr gang-rape case: DoD says "who cares".

  • jamie leigh jones and at least 38 others: Jones has set up a foundation to help others in the same situation; at least 38 women have come forward through her efforts. More than two years after the Jones's assault, no criminal charges have been brought.

  • state of the planet: women in war, rape as a weapon: whether soldiers, employees or members of an invaded population, women in war are targets, rape is the weapon of choice.

  • a step towards justice for jamie leigh jones: A judge rules that her case will be ruled in public court, rather than the closed arbitration hearings that Halliburton and KBR insist on.
  • 8 comments:

    James said...

    Franken is, along with Stewart and Colbert, another data point supporting the theory that comedians are the most sensible people in the American political scene today.

    Dennis Miller, of course, provides a counterexample,though he may be an outlier.

    Joe Grav said...

    al franken is the MAN.

    teflonjedi said...

    Very happy to read this...can't even imagine how such contract terms are legal.

    impudent strumpet said...

    I've been reading this and the links and thinking about it for a while, and I'm stuck on one thing:

    Halliburton/KBR feels the need to bring workers all the way to Iraq to do whatever this job is. This would imply that it's rather important, since relocating and housing employees (and in a war zone!) is a major and expensive undertaking.

    But they don't feel that it's important enough to ensure the most basic employee safety and well-being. They don't need their employees to have a sense of morale or security or loyalty or being appreciated or anything. They don't even give it lip service. (Even when I was slinging burgers for minimum wage in a toxic work environment, they gave it lip service.)

    So what kind of work are Ms. Jones and her colleagues doing that it's important enough to relocate a bunch of people all the way to Iraq, but not important enough to even go through the motions of caring about employee morale?

    L-girl said...

    Imp Strump, I'm glad you've read and thought about this a lot.

    So what kind of work are Ms. Jones and her colleagues doing that it's important enough to relocate a bunch of people all the way to Iraq, but not important enough to even go through the motions of caring about employee morale?

    I would say this is what happens when employers care only for profit and do not value people's lives. In this case, it's specifically women's lives, but this is - as you point out - a labour issue as much as a women's issue.

    L-girl said...

    Wait, I clicked that too soon.

    That under-valuing or non-valuing of human life is exactly what kind of work it is.

    Halliburton/KBR is part of an invasion. They are the ones the invading forces were sent there to make room for and protect. Their disdain for their workforce is reflected in - reflective of - the disdain for Iraqi lives, land, sovreignty.

    These assaults and cover-ups didn't take place in a vacuum. They occurred in the context of the larger assault.

    They also align Jamie Leigh Jones and the (at least) 38 other women who came forward with their stories with the Iraqi people, who are being raped - literally and figuratively - every day.

    impudent strumpet said...

    What I'm trying to figure out is what exactly Ms. Jones's job was when she was in Iraq. Like she'd go into work in the morning and...do what?

    Because even if you don't care the slightest bit about human decency, you still need your workers to have some amount of morale just so your organization will function. So I'm really curious about what they were all doing that's so unimportant that their morale is irrelevant, but so important that they had to import workers from the states to do it.

    L-girl said...

    Ah, that I haven't seen anywhere. But these companies hire US workers because it's actually easier for them to do so than hire people locally. No language barrier, no culture barrier and no "security risk," as they see it. Iraqis are "the enemy" (sorry for all the quotes, these are necessary!), and even those who profess to be friendly to US interests might be sleepers.

    As I understand it, these contractors bring everything with them to re-create a kind of US-away-from-US, or even Texas-away-from-Texas. But without the laws.

    But I have no idea what Jones's job in Iraq was.