Bound & bitten, or just Franken, Inouye, the Pentagon & the White House debating rape?

BlogHer Original Post

There are layers of information and emotion covering the speculation that Democratic Senator from Hawaii and Senate Appropriations Chairman Daniel Inouye may strip an amendment from the Department of Defense's appropriations bill that freshman Al Franken (MN) successfully got attached to the House version.  Franken's amendment would prevent federal dollars and contracts from flowing from the DOD to any contractor who requires mandatory binding arbitration in exchange for giving up a right to be heard in court regarding allegations of certain kinds of wrongdoing - including rape.

The incident that instigated the amendment could not be a better exhibit as to why no individual should ever be required to trade away a right to legal recourse in order to get a job.  As Laura Goode tells it in "Rape is a Hate Crime,"

The amendment, a major forward motion in Sen. Franken’s feminist agenda, was spurred by the case of Jamie Leigh Jones, a former Halliburton/KBR employee in Iraq who was brutally gang-raped by her coworkers, then “detained in a shipping container for at least 24 hours without food, water, or a bed, and "warned her that if she left Iraq for medical treatment, she'd be out of a job." (from ThinkProgress)

The case has been covered in almost every progressive news outlet, from ThinkProgress to AlterNet to Feministing to Jezebel, and even made a spotlight on The Daily Show. (Ironically, and not without purpose, the episode in which Jon Stewart’s righteously rhapsodized on the Jones case coincided with a guest appearance by Barbara Ehrenreich to discuss the recently released and controversial study on women’s happiness, which I covered here.) Another blog, Republicans for Rape, has cropped up to call out these so-called public servants, along with other “pro-rape” proselytizers like Phyllis Schafly, Sarah Palin, The Heritage Foundation, and more.

“Yeah, just a thought,” Stewart quipped in response to the allegation that the amendment politically targeted Halliburton, “if to protect Halliburton you have to side against rape victims, you might want to rethink your allegiances.”

So what has happened since Stewart gave high-profile attention to the situation?

No one is talking.  According to the Twin Cities Daily Planet,

Franken's office tells the Minnesota Independent it won't be making a public comment on the issue. The bill is expected to be sent out of the appropriations committee sometime next week.

And as for the Huffington Post's suggestions that Inouye would torpedo his colleague's first effort to make a mark in federal law, the Open Secrets' Capitol Eye Blog opens our eyes to the money involved for Inouye:

Defense contractors, including Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman, have been some of Inouye's top campaign contributors over the years.

Opposition to the amendment (which passed 68-30) gave rise to the mock website, Republicansforrape.com because 30 GOP Senators -all pale male - did vote against Franken's amendment.

Say what?

Let's put it this way: here in Ohio, we had a Republican, Jewish Ohio House member (from my district) betray many of his constituents after they begged him not to vote against an anti-discrimination law intended to expand protection to LGBT cases. The expectation that he would not vote against the law was in part because a Republican, Jewish state legislator, in the Senate, a year earlier, had explicitly said that as a member of a group that was killed and continues to be discriminated against solely on the basis of religion, he felt that he could not justifiably vote against the expansion. 

But the House member insisted that such expansion would be bad for small business.

Should I tell you that a week later the Gay Games announced that it would be coming to Cleveland in 2014?  So much for that bad for small business thing. Whatev.

Likewise, the hackles being put up by the Pentagon, the White House and the defense industry could be seen as a similar type of red herring.  These parties each assert one or more of a type of opposition that they think allows them to still say how horrible rape is but that there's nothing they can do in the law that wouldn't be unfair to the employer or that would be enforceable enough to make a difference.

The Pentagon says that they just don't get to know about contracts enough to be able to enforce such a prohibition.

The White House, via Robert Gibbs, says that they agree with the intent of Franken's amendment but are unsure about the method.

And the defense industry just wants to do what they want to do the way they want to do it:

"The defense contractors have been storming his office," said a source with knowledge of the situation. "Inouye either will get the amendment taken out altogether, or water it down significantly. If they water it down, they will take out the Title VII claims. This means that in discrimination cases, they will still force you into a secret forced arbitration on KBR's (or other contractors') own terms -- with your chances of prevailing practically zero. The House seems to be very supportive of the original Franken amendment and all in line, but their hands are tied since it originated in the Senate. And since Inouye runs the show on this bill, he can easily take it out to get Republicans and the defense contractors off his back, which looks increasingly likely."

If you read any of the links, you'll see that there's a reasonable back and forth about how the amendment could perhaps have been more tightly written and shield itself from a few of the criticisms being lobbed at it.  On the other hand, the Pentagon's reasons are absolutely lame in the face of the fact that measures can be put in place to make sure no contracts that violate the amendment get signed.

Ultimately, the real issue seems to me to be: is it ever okay to force someone to give up their right to seek redress in a court of law in order to take a job?

Would you do that?  Have you done that? Would you try to get someone else to do it in order to work for you?

I hear some of us saying that we find that, as a society, it is unconscionable to expect a person to give up the right to go to court when something as eggregious as rape is involved.  And I hear others saying that if an employer can find a person who is willing to give that up in order to have a job, then so be it.

What say you?

Other takes:

The 30 Shameless Male Senators Who Voted Against Rape Victims (Video) at Tennessee Guerilla Women

MW: He's Good Enough, He's Smart Enough... by MadamaB

Nice Work: WTF?! Rape, Defense Contractors, and the Senate at Girl W/Pen!

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