Al Franken, and Hot Coffee

Al Franken is a casualty.  I don’t believe Franken is groper.  I hope he will run in the 2018 special election to represent the people of Minnesota.  They would be smart to re-elect him. He was a very good U.S. Senator, hard-working and always prepared, and tried not to be funny. 

Certainly, I do not condone sexual harassment.  Any person who uses their power and position to harass subordinates or co-workers should be fired. We can all think of one.  But Franken didn’t do that.  He may have put his hand in the wrong place while posing for pictures, and he pictures taken of the sleeping woman were just plain stupid.  But, at that time Franken was a comedian, not a Senator.  I watched lots of people getting their pictures taken with elected officials.  Everyone quickly takes a position and smiles for the camera.  Electeds have an amazing ability to put on a perfect smile – I have never seen a bad picture of Hilary Clinton with a group of constituents.   I swear electeds practice in the mirror at night, their eyes are never closed, their smiles are always “picture perfect”.

Franken came to the Senate after a protracted election, his 300+ vote win was challenged and it took almost 6 months for him to take his oath of office.  When he finally arrived one of his first actions to oppose mandatory arbitration clauses (MAC), and became a champion for Jamie Leigh Jones.  Jones testified before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee to being gang raped by her co-workers, and then held in a locked container by her employer before she could get medical treatment. When she got home she tried to sue her employer KBR, a subsidiary of Halliburton, but little did she know that when she signed her employment paperwork there was a MAC.  She told the committee, rape was not what she signed up for in Iraq and she wanted to sue.  But because of the MAC, she couldn’t go to court.  You can watch Jones’ testimony in the documentary film “Hot Coffee” on Netflix or Amazon.  You can also see me sitting a few rows back in the audience.  At that time, I was working with a group of advocates trying to pass legislation banning MACs from private employment, credit card and consumer contracts. 

Another valiant effort to protect the little people, that never passed in Congress.  Years later the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) did write regulations banning these MACs from banks and credit cards, but Trump recently signed an executive order reversing those rules.  Another win for big banks and credit card companies, another “screw-you” for the little people, (but that is another story).

Now don’t get me wrong, I love arbitration.  I did many of them when I was representing workers.  But in union contracts, arbitration is a fair fight.  Both sides are represented and the arbitrator is paid by the losing party.  Under consumer arbitration clauses the companies win 99.9% of the time, because the deck is stacked in favor of the company.  The arbitrators are hand-picked by the company and if they want to keep getting picked they rule in favor of the company.  Not to mention the consumer is on their own to represent themselves.  Of course, they can hire an attorney, if they can find one who wants to take the case.

Disputes over phones, bank or credit card fees should go to small claims court, or better yet Judge Judy.  Nope, with mandatory arbitration companies can deny their customers the right to sue, and employers can force workers to fend for themselves in a rigged arbitration.

So, this week when Senator Franken took to the floor and announced he would resign, it really pissed me off.  Franken didn’t talk dirty or sexually harass anyone.  He put his hand or tongue in the wrong place for an instant.  Not that he should have done it, but I don’t see the firing offense.  When I represented men accused of harassment in the work place, there were instances when it didn’t happen.  To be fair, accusations of poor hand placement for a photo-op, isn’t they same thing as showing your junk to a subordinate, intern or job applicant.

Franken didn’t use his power to intimidate or harass.  He was asked to take a picture, as a comedian and a celebrity.  I for one don’t think he did it, but if he did, the woman should have turned around and slapped his face.  Isn’t that what they do in comedy sketches?

 

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