Thursday, October 8, 2009

Take These Senators. Please.

The case of
Jamie Leigh Jones is horrific.

Employed in Iraq by KBR (a wholly-owned subsidiary of Halliburton), in July of 2005 the then 19-year old Ms. Jones was was drugged and gang-raped by fellow KBR employees.

Her account was backed up by her physical injuries, which were documented the morning following the rape by U.S. Army physician Jodi Schultz.

When Jones reported the incident, KBR rewarded her by locking her in a shipping container (complete with armed guards) for several days before sending her home.

Her injuries were so bad she required reconstructive surgery.

Since that time, the rape kit, and the notes and photographs taken, and report prepared by Dr. Shultz to document the incident went missing.

With the assistance of a diplomat from the US State Department, the rape kit was recovered from KBR.

The rest of the documentation prepared by Dr. Shultz remains unobtainable, held somewhere in the bureacratic labyrinth that is Halliburton. If it hasn't been destroyed.

Because of Coalition Provisional Authority Order 17, which protects US contractors from Iraqi law, Ms. Jones' KBR assailants are probably immune from any prosecution by Iraqi authority.

The US Department of Justice, which does have authority, has for some reason declined to take any action... perhaps because much of the evidence has "been disappeared," or perhaps because in addition to other screw-ups by no-bid contractor KBR, it's simply embarrassing.

So. What remedy does Jamie Leigh Jones have? She can sue KBR/Halliburton, right?

Wrong. KBR, for the last three years, has successfully argued that the "mandatory arbitration" clause in Ms. Jones' contract with them forbade her from doing so. Or it did, until yesterday.

Thanks to freshman Senator Al Franken (D-MN), an amendment was added to the FY2010 Defense Appropriations Bill that prohibits mandatory arbitration clauses protecting the employer against suit for criminal acts like this.
"This bill would make it so that anybody in business with the Department of the Defense can't do this," said Franken. "They can't have mandatory arbitration on issues like assault and battery."

Minnesota, you've done well by electing Mr. Franken, and you should be proud (can you now please do something about crazy Rep. Michelle Bachmann in 2010?).

Here's Senator Franken putting the smack-down on the KBR shill during a committee hearing:

Any decent person realizes that employers with big-buck federal contracts like KBR shouldn't be allowed to stop their employees from taking sexual assault, battery and discrimination that occurs in the workplace to court.

Read more at:
Here's Senator Franken in action, putting the smack-down on the KBR/Halliburton corporate shill:

Now, you'd think that a measure like this would be a no-brainer, and that it would pass unanimously.

But it didn't. The amendment did pass handily, by a vote of 68-30.

But that's still 30 Senators who voted to put Halliburton/KBR and other corporate (pronounced "campaign contributor") interests ahead of the interests of American citizens... and guess what?

Every single one of them was a Republican.

The list is here.

If one of them is your Senator, drop them a line to let them know you think their actions are the height of douchebaggery, and you'll remember it come election time.

If you want to know more, check out the Jamie Leigh Foundation, a non-profit organization she founded to help victims.

h/t to Matt Osborne, Jason Linkens at Huffington Post

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