Friday, October 23, 2009

Action Alert: Don't Let Dick Cheney's Buddies Silence Rape Survivors

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NOW Action Alert
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October 23, 2009
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Don't Let Dick Cheney's Buddies Silence Rape Survivors
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Four years ago, Jamie Leigh Jones was drugged and gang-raped, vaginally and anally, while working for defense contractor KBR (a subsidiary of Halliburton at the time) in Iraq. She then was locked in a shipping container without food, water or medical treatment in an attempt to keep the story quiet. She was unable to sue KBR for sex discrimination in open court because KBR was one of many companies with government contracts that require employees to sign individual contracts barring lawsuits and forcing mandatory binding arbitration, where the company almost always wins.
Sen. Al Franken's (D-Minn.) amendment to a defense appropriations bill pending in Congress restores women's rights to jury trials when employed by a company with a government contract. This amendment is in jeopardy, thanks to the lobbying of Appropriations Committee Chair Sen. Daniel Inouye (D -Hawaii) by deep-pocketed defense contractors.
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Action Needed:
Please take time now to call the Appropriations Committee office to demand that Sen. Inouye keep the Franken Amendment in the defense appropriations bill.
Sen. Franken's recent amendment to the 2010 defense appropriations bill will deny defense contracts to companies that "restrict their employees from taking workplace sexual assault, battery and discrimination cases to court." These business policies deny women the right to seek justice, and the results of such practices are devastating.
Franken's efforts and Jones' testimony before the Senate paid off, and the bill passed 68-30. Jones commented with the following: "It means the world to me. 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."
The Huffington Post reports: "Multiple sources" both inside the beltway and in defense-contracting circles reveal that Appropriations Committee Chair Sen. Daniel Inouye (D -Hawaii) may water down or remove the provision, due to pressure from defense-industry contractors who fear they will be susceptible to lawsuits.
"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."
Earlier this week, the Defense Department noted its concerns, stating, "Enforcement would be problematic, especially in cases where privity of contract does not exist between parties within the supply chain that supports a contract. It may be more effective to seek a statutory prohibition of all such arrangements in any business transaction entered into within the jurisdiction of the United States, if these arrangements are deemed to pose an unacceptable method of recourse."

Your Message
Please call the office of the Defense Subcommittee of the Appropriations Committee NOW before it's too late. The staff member who is handling this issue is Nicole DiResta, and her direct line is 202-224-3506. Make sure to leave a message if you reach voice mail. If Ms. DiResta's voice mail fills up, the main number is 202-224-6688.
Please note: Sen. Inouye's name is pronounced "In-uh-way."
Sample talking points for your call:
  • I am calling because I am a supporter of equal rights for women, including the right to be free from violence and to seek justice through the courts.
  • I am concerned that Senator Al Franken's amendment to the defense appropriations bill may be taken out or watered down. Right now, government contractors are denying workers the right to sue in public court if they are sexually assaulted while on the job. This amendment restores that right.
  • Jamie Leigh Jones' story demonstrates what happens to women when they are denied worker's rights. Jones worked for defense contractor KBR in Iraq, where she reportedly was drugged and gang-raped by her male co-workers. In an attempt to cover up the activities of its employees, KBR had Jones locked in a shipping container without food, water or medical treatment. When Jones tried to sue KBR, she was told that due to a clause in her contract she was only allowed private arbitration, with no public transcript of the proceedings. Therefore, no judge or jury would ever hear her case.
  • I am shocked by media reports that claim Appropriations Chair Senator Inouye is planning to water down or eliminate this critically important amendment. Please tell Senator Inouye to stand up to big defense contractors who want to change this bill so that they can continue to avoid responsibility for the violation of women's rights.
  • Tell Sen. Inouye: You voted for this amendment because you know it's right. Please don't take it out of the bill. Women are counting on you. Thank you for your time.

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