Wednesday, October 09, 2019

The Erickson Report, Page 4: Two Weeks of Stupid - the Outrages

The Erickson Report, Page 4: Two Weeks of Stupid - the Outrages

Now we turn to the Outrages.

Late in September, the National Labor Relations Board issued a ruling making it impossible for graduate student workers to unionize.

How? By issuing a regulation "establishing that students who perform any services for compensation, including, but not limited to, teaching or research, at a private college or university in connection with their studies are not 'employees'" under the National Labor Relations Act. The rule, if it gains final approval after a public comment period, will overturn an earlier rule that said grad student workers could, in fact, unionize. I mean, yeah, they're workers, duh.

You see, the thing is, graduate student workers do much of the actual work of teaching undergrads - doing the backgrounds, gathering the materials, doing research, and conducting many of the classes. They do the work, they get paid for it - not enough, but they get paid - they have regular hours, they have a boss to who they report and who assigns their duties, but somehow, according to the now-rightwing NLRB, they still are not employees of the university that pays them.

In recent years, graduate student workers, along with another underpaid group, adjunct professors, have been very active in the labor movement, which may be why they were targeted here. And yes, since the Board didn't even wait for an actual case to come before it to try to strip these workers of their rights, it certainly looks like they were targeted for this Outrage.


Next, I earlier noted a case where a teacher was claiming that their religious belief - more honestly described as their religious bigotry - freed them from having to follow the rules, in that case their employer's requirement to use male pronouns in referring to a student transitioning to male.

Here is a more ominous application of the same idea.

Joshua Payne-Elliott is an educator fired in June from his job at Cathedral High School in Indianapolis, a Catholic high school in the Indianapolis archdiocese.

He was fired because he is married to Layton Payne-Elliott and the Archbishop of Indianapolis, one Charles Thompson, demanded the school get rid of him because he regards all Catholic school teachers as “ministers” - no matter their actual beliefs - who are therefore required to uphold church teachings, which as we all know do not include same-sex marriage.

Layton and Joshua Payne-Elliot
The school was supportive of Payne-Elliott but faced serious repercussions, including losing its nonprofit status, its diocesan priests, and its ability to offer the Eucharist, a key Christian rite, if it resisted Thompson's demand.

In fact, Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School in Indianapolis was temporarily kicked out of the archdiocese for refusing to meet Thompson’s demands that it fire Layton Payne-Elliott. The Vatican has suspended the ouster pending an appeal of the move, but it shows the threat from the archbishop was very real.

Joshua had worked as a social studies and world language teacher at the school for 13 years and Cathedral had offered to renew his teaching contract for another year. But in June, the school told him it was terminating his employment “at the direction of the Archdiocese.”

But right there in those two sentences is the crux of the matter: Joshua did not work for the archdiocese. He worked for Cathedral High School. That's who his contract was with. The school, not the archdiocese, was his employer.

So he sued, charging that the archdiocese had illegally interfered in his employment contract with Cathedral, which it seems pretty clear it did.

Not, however, and here we come to the important point, not according to the US Dept. of Injustice, which has filed a statement of interest in the case defending the archdiocese on the grounds of - you got it - "religious freedom" and calling for the suit to be dismissed.

The brief argues that the First Amendment bars courts from interfering in how a religious group interprets and applies its teachings - even if, apparently, that application consists of bullying a school into firing what the brief itself calls "an excellent teacher" because that group, the Catholic church, doesn't like who he married.

Again, according to the Injustice Dept., claiming a religious belief is supposed to override all civil rights and all civil rights laws - even if means a religious group illegally interfering with a business contract to which it's not a party.

Vanita Gupta, who headed the DOJ’s civil rights division during the Obama administration, summed it up well on on Twitter, writing that "[The administration] is once again using religion as a shield against core anti-discrimination principles that protect LGBTQ people.”
Using bigotry to uphold bigotry. Which is truly an outrage.


Saving what is probably the worst for last.

In the summer of 2017, police in Southaven, Mississippi, were searching for a domestic violence suspect. They got the address wrong and went to a house on the other side of the street.

There, they shot and killed an innocent man, 41-year-old Ismael Lopez.

According to various news reports I found, police first alleged Lopez appeared at the front door with a handgun and then tried to run away. At another point, they claimed they saw a rifle poking though the now only partly open door. They also said a dog ran out which of course they immediately shot at and they then fired through the door - which in fact they did, killing Lopez with a shot to the back of his head.

Ismael Lopez
Despite the changing details, in July 2018, a local grand jury - surprise! - declined to indict the two officers involved in the fatal shooting, after which the prosecutor refused to release either the names of the cops involved or the investigative file, which attorneys for the family had to pry loose.

But that's not why this is here; cops getting away will killing brown and black people is old news. No, this one has an extra twist of the knife.

About a year after the failure of the grand jury, that is, this past summer, the family filed a $20 million wrongful death lawsuit against the city of Southaven, the chief of Southaven police, and the officers involved in Lopez’s death.

In responding to the suit, the city declared in open court that it is their policy that if you are an undocumented immigrant, which Lopez was, if you have no “legally recognized relationship” with the US, you have no constitutional protections, you have no constitutional rights, not even the right to not be wrongfully killed.

Quoting attorney Katherine Kerby, arguing for the city,
If he ever had Fourth Amendment or Fourteenth Amendment civil rights they were lost by his own conduct and misconduct. He may have been a person on American soil but he was not one of the "We, the People"
and so lacked all protections.

Murray Wells, an attorney representing Lopez’s family, lambasted the city’s argument as both “chilling” and “insane” and said “We’re stunned that someone put this in writing.”

It's hard to grasp how totally demented, totally vicious, the city's position is. If accepted, it would turn all police into a version of the Tonton Macoute, able to abuse and even kill any undocumented person with total impunity.

Happily, it's also total crapola, as the Supreme Court has ruled on multiple occasions that people on U.S. soil are guaranteed certain basic rights, no matter their immigration status, and the cases the city cites in support of its contention are grossly misapplied and have absolutely nothing to do with the case at hand.

As an illustration of how vacuous the city's position was, one case it cited involved courts finding that an undocumented immigrant did not have a Second Amendment right to a firearm - in a ruling that said in so many words that this did not impact Fourth Amendment rights.

But while that makes the city's attempt grounds for a Clown award, it is much too vile, much too appalling, for that. Even the term Outrage barely contains it.

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