Friday, March 26, 2010

Al Franken's First CHUTZPAH Award

The only time I have seen Al Franken in the Senate was in a shot of him filling in to hold the presiding Chair (presumably in the absence of anyone of higher rank to do the job). I have been patiently waiting for him to flex his legislative muscles in a manner worthy of a Chutzpah of the Week award. Now, on the basis of Laura Flanders' latest post to The Notion, I think he has done it:

Score one for Senator Al Franken.

Thanks to him, Jamie Leigh Jones, a former KBR employee who alleges she was gang raped by her coworkers will get her day in court.

I think we call that equal protection.

In Jones' case, it took an amendment to the 2010 defense appropriations bill. That's right, freshman Franken had to get up and suggest that government shouldn't be in the business of giving rewards -- or government contracts -- to companies that strip their workers of basic Constitutional rights, like the right to a jury trial.

Jones, lest we forget, has testified that she was raped and battered so badly by a group of her co-workers in Iraq that she required reconstructive surgery. Her assailants locked her in a shipping container for 24 hours without food, water, and she has testified before Congress that the company "warned her that if she left Iraq for medical treatment, she'd be out of a job."

Nice, huh? The Department of Justice brought no criminal charges and Jones had to battle her case in arbitration before taking it to court, because, well, for all these many years, KBR (formerly a division of Halliburton) has a clause in its contracts that calls on prospective hires to sign away their right to court trials on sexual assault, discrimination and harassment charges.

Also lest we forget, THIRTY Republican Senators voted against Franken's amendment. Thirty. Gotta love those family values.

Now, thanks to big Al, Jones will at last get to press her suit because KBR's dropped their appeal and a company spokesman said Franken's amendment made them do it.

One of the comments to this post suggested that the real chutzpah came from those Republican Senators; but Republicans do what Republicans do (just as Israelis do what Israelis do). Chutzpah is a matter of going beyond the norm; and, in this case, the norm was set not only by those Republican Senators but also by all the other Senators who would not raise their voice in this matter. Franken gets the Award for raising his voice when someone had to do it. Jones is the better for it, and I suspect there will be many more beneficiaries.

No comments: