While working in Iraq in 2005, Halliburton/KBR employee Jamie Leigh Jones was brutally gang-raped by her co-workers and left for a day locked in a shipping container. Her employment contract said that she was not allowed to sue – her allegations could only be heard in private arbitration.
Last week in his first legislative effort, Sen. Al Franken (D-Minnesota) proposed an amendment to a Defense Appropriations bill that would deny taxpayer dollars in the form of defense contracts to any company that asks employees to sign away their right to sue.
Sec. 8104. (a) 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.
30 Republicans voted against the amendment and voted for protecting ginormous profit-making defense contracts for KBR/Halliburton, including Tennessee Senators Lamar! Alexander and Bob Corker. Click on each of the links to send them a nice note or call Sen. Alexander at 202-224-4944 and Senator Corker at 202-234-3344.
Senators Corker and Alexander no doubt agreed with the twisted and flat-out wrong logic of Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama who argued that “The Congress should not be involved in writing or rewriting private contracts…that’s just not how we should handle matters in the United States Senate.” Given that the United States government was the other party in the contract, that would be exactly the kind of thing Congress should be involved in.
Senators Alexander and Corker did, however, vote for an amendment “that prohibits funds…from being used to directly or indirectly fund the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN)” – an organization that fights for living and minimum wage legislation and increases, registers low- and moderate-income and minority citizens to vote, and counsels first-time home buyers.
If you’re keeping score at home for our two Senators it would be, Rape – 1, The American Dream – 0.
And if you think the sexual assault of women by defense contractor employees is a one-time occurrence, think again.
UPDATE: More from Joe Powell.