All right, they didn't technically vote for gang rape. They just voted, as they usually do, for the lobbyists and/or corporations. I unapologetically admit that I chose that title because my original title, and all the other titles I thought of, were much more convoluted and much less provocative. Oh and I originally posted a slightly different version in my Facebook account.

Just in case you were wondering who to vote for - or against - next election, the thirty Senators below opposed an amendment to the Defense Appropriations bill meant to basically cut off government contracts to companies that have policies that prevent employees from seeking public justice (i.e. going to the police) about being raped while on the job by coworkers, favoring instead mandatory arbitration... a process that didn't help a woman named Jamie Leigh Jones. In 2005 she was gang-raped in Iraq by her colleagues at KBR, a former subsidiary of Halliburton. After the rape kit was sent to KBR, for her trouble, she was punished by being put in a storage container for about a day with an armed guard, denied food and water. And when the rape kit resurfaced years later it was gutted of important evidence.

Attention my Missourian friends, you know one of these guys well. Also noteworthy, and to some unsurprisingly, ALL of the nayvoters are Republican, AND male. I have conveniently provided for you, where available, phone numbers and email addresses for them so you can quickly tell them exactly what you think about their vote.

Oh, the amendment, introduced by freshman Senator Al Franken of all people, was passed, 68-30.

Of course, for a sense of balance, in defense of the senators, I should tell you that the Republicans pointed out that the amendment was opposed by many lobbying business interests, namely the US Chamber of Commerce, and applies to companies like Boeing and IBM.

And by the way, I'm not urging you to vote for Democrats; I belong to and owe allegiance to neither party. Vote Green Party for all I care. Just consider this if you were thinking about going Republican the next time these men are up for reelection.

Links:

http://www.alternet.org/blogs/peek/143326/to_profit-driven_contractors:_all_rape_cases_must_go_before_the_law,_period?utm_source=feedblitz&utm_medium=FeedBlitzRss&utm_campaign=alternet

http://abcnews.go.com/Blotter/story?id=3977702&page=1&page=1

webmaren says: It's worth mentioning that a legitimate gripe for this amendment could be that it self-destructs the entire contract for a "sub-contractor at any level" which may be unduly difficult to untangle. Not that I'm particularly well-versed in DoD contract mechanics, but I would assume that there is a good reason buried in there somewhere.

Forgive my bluntness, but ABraut's writeup is a pretty sick and twisted reading of this amendment. It was clearly designed only to prevent employers from forcing employees to sign contracts agreeing to submit rape cases to binding arbitration instead of US courts.

The full text of the amendment, which ABraut conveniently leaves out, reads as follows:

On page 245, between lines 8 and 9, insert the following:

Sec. 8104. (a) Beginning 90 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, none of the funds appropriated or otherwise made available by this Act may be used for any existing or new Federal contract if the contractor or a subcontractor at any tier requires that an employee or independent contractor, as a condition of employment, sign a contract that mandates that the employee or independent contractor performing work under the contract or subcontract resolve through arbitration any claim under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 or any tort related to or arising out of sexual assault or harassment, including assault and battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress, false imprisonment, or negligent hiring, supervision, or retention.

(b) The prohibition in subsection (a) does not apply with respect to employment contracts that may not be enforced in a court of the United States.

This is one of the shorter amendments to a law I've ever seen, and it's meaning is extremely clear, even to a non-lawyer. literally all it says is that the US government will not use funds from this particular defense appropriation to fund companies that force their employees to submit sexual assault claims to binding arbitration rather than the courts. ABraut's claim that this amendment has nothing to do with preventing rape is ludicrous when you read the actual amendment, which again, s/he conveniently left out.

Even more ludicrous is the claim that this is all just some sort of conspiracy to benefit trial lawyers, just because a few of the donors to Al Franken's Senate campaign were law firms. This amendment only applies to an extremely specific set of claims and only applies to one specific law that only affects a handful of companies. I don't dispute that this bill was aimed particularly at KBR and Halliburton or even that it was in part a piece of political grandstanding, but to view this amendment as some sort of massive boon for trial lawyers requires some twisted logic and a massive leap of imagination. It's clearly designed to prevent companies from slipping language into contracts such that the employees unknowingly give up their rights to pursue civil lawsuits against the employer in cases of sexual assault. The goal of the amendment seems eminently reasonable, and there's a reason why this bill was overwhelmingly approved in an otherwise extremely polarized and deadlocked Senate.

But most distasteful of all is ABraut's citation of the "not guilty" result of the criminal trial, as if the fact that Jamie Leigh Jones may not have been raped somehow proves that this is not a serious issue and that therefore employers should be able to avoid civil liability for employees getting raped on the job just by inserting a line in their contract. ABraut neglects to mention that a US Circuit Court of Appeals later ruled that this kind of contractual language cannot be applied to sexual assault in the workplace and allowed Jones's civil suit to proceed. In other words, while most of the Senate and the US Circuit Court agreed that applying this kind of contract clause to instances of sexual assault is a bad idea, 30 Republican Senators, all white males, apparently think it is a great idea.

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