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Cadence engineer fired for activism:
May 29, 2002 9:54 AM   Subscribe

Cadence engineer fired for activism: So, an engineer for Cadence Design Systems, on his own time and dime went to Bethlehem to do humanitarian work with the International Solidarity Movement, a group of pro-Palestinian activists who believe in non-violent resistance to the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. When he returned, he was immediately terminated due to "inappropriate politics in an area where Cadence does business (Israel)". Should corporations have the right to mandate the political views of their employees, contractors and subsidiary workers? Would there be more outrage if he was fired for supporting the Israeli occupation? When a Christian's beliefs run contrary to Jewish interests, is it automatically fair to fire the Christian?
posted by dejah420 (57 comments total)

 
it depends on the state, dejah. if the state is a fire-at-will state, then the cadence engineer may have just as well been fired for picking his nose.
posted by moz at 10:00 AM on May 29, 2002


(i don't know if california is or not.)
posted by moz at 10:01 AM on May 29, 2002


Jewish interests?
posted by evanizer at 10:05 AM on May 29, 2002


Why would he work for a firm that did lots of business with Israel and then complain when he got fired because he had shown support for the holed-up terrorists (ok: militants if you like) in an anti-Israeli move? He seems to want it both ways. But what we learned in Viet Nam protests: ok to protest. But then accept responsibility for your actions. note: the militants/terrorist were then separated from their families and went into exile--because Arafat agreed to it.
posted by Postroad at 10:07 AM on May 29, 2002


theres gotta be more to this guy than this. no company has their head that deep in its own rear-end to fire someone over something as ridiculous as that.

gotta go, boss is coming
posted by tsarfan at 10:07 AM on May 29, 2002


"Should corporations have the right to mandate the political views of their employees, contractors and subsidiary workers?"

Obviously corporations don't have the right to "mandate" political views, but that's not what Cadence was doing in this case. The company did not require this engineer to share its views, only that he not act in a manner that was perceived to be detrimental to the corporation's business interests. Private employers are not governments -- there are no "free speech" or "free association" rights. There are anti-discrimination laws, but I'm not aware of any that prohibit discrimination on the basis of political views. And I don't think this case can be twisted into a Jewish/Muslim religious discrimination argument, since it's so clearly a political situation.
posted by pardonyou? at 10:11 AM on May 29, 2002


Should corporations have the right to mandate the political views of their employees, contractors and subsidiary workers?

No.
posted by rushmc at 10:11 AM on May 29, 2002


You can still support Israel, buy its products, work for a company that does business there, and not support all of its policies, Postroad. As for supporting "holed up terrorists" 99.9% of the people who were under curfew in the occupied territories were not terrorists but ordinary civilians who had limited access to food, medicine, electricity, and water. Delivering them food, water, cooking oil, etc. isn't exactly "showing support for terrorists"
posted by cell divide at 10:11 AM on May 29, 2002


No, Moz, it's illegal to fire people in California for political reasons, but the law doesn't extend to contractors...which Hanna was.
posted by dejah420 at 10:13 AM on May 29, 2002


Should corporations have the right to mandate the political views of their employees, contractors and subsidiary workers?

No, corporations shouldn't & don't. He is free to believe as he wishes, and act accordingly. But a corporation DOES have the right to terminate someone that is acting contrary to the interests of their firm, or the firm's owner/s. Having "freedom of speech" does not guarantee that a corporation has to support you, finance you, or employ you.
posted by davidmsc at 10:14 AM on May 29, 2002


A corporation should be able to fire anybody for any reason it wants. However, a business that fired people for holding a particular political position, would soon find it difficult to recruit the best and brightest from the potential applicant pool, and would lose the competitive edge. So it is really in the best interest of any high-tech company to turn a blind eye to employee political opinions. However, if any company wants to run the risk of alienating valuable current or potential employees by firing people for "picking their nose" or whatever, they should have the right to do so. It is literally, "their business."
posted by Faze at 10:31 AM on May 29, 2002


It is mildly amusing that that there are those who will tolerate restrictions on fundamental rights when a certain magic substance is involved.

I guess it's a matter of priorities...or of allegiances.
posted by fold_and_mutilate at 10:37 AM on May 29, 2002


Uh, yeah, "Jewish interests"? Are we talking about Israel here? Or Judaism? Or the Elders of Zion?
posted by Marquis at 10:41 AM on May 29, 2002


Let's reverse the scenario. A Saudi-Arabian employee of a multinational oil company that does a lot of business in the US, comes to the US to show his support of Moslems currently being imprisoned as "material witnesses" without charge.
The oil company fires him. Is it fair?
posted by kablam at 10:41 AM on May 29, 2002


A corporation should be able to fire anybody for any reason it wants

Really? I am sure you don't actually believe that. Or do you?
posted by srboisvert at 10:41 AM on May 29, 2002


srboisvert, Why is it difficult that believe that someone would support the right of a private business to make its own personnel decisions? Of course I believe that a corporation should be able to fire anybody for any reason it wants. The best reason for a business not to do so, as I said above, it that it creates a poor working environment, and is bad business in the long run. However, the decision is up to the owner or owners. It's called freedom.
posted by Faze at 10:45 AM on May 29, 2002


foldy, what "fundamental rights" are you talking about? Nobody's stopping this guy from doing whatever the hell he wants to do. That his decision had consequences is not surprising -- what decision doesn't? How would you feel about a nurse at an abortion clinic who spends her off time protesting in front of the clinic? Should the doctor have to turn a blind eye to her protesting because of her fundamental rights?
posted by pardonyou? at 10:51 AM on May 29, 2002


Firing based on political views is a pretty slippery slope. I'm an agnostic who leans towards liberal or libertarian (by the definition of liberal I grew up with in Canada, not the definition as applied in the U.S.) views working in a group of staunch Christians who are extremely right-winged. Singling somebody out for hiring or firing based on religion is, I believe, illegal. I also believe that this is good and just. If you open the door to terminating people based on politics its quite easy to create a justification for termininating somebody based on their religion and disguise it as a political motivation. Some potential screenings might be: pro-choice v.s. pro-life, pro-prayer-in-schools v.s. anti-prayer-in-schools etc. In each case you can technically be a Christian and hold either view (though, depending on who you ask maybe not a very worthy Christian) but the screening could easily keep out undesirable athiests.

One other thing to consider. Would there be less acceptance for the view that firing based on political motiviations was alright if it was an Arab owned business that fired somebody for a pro-israeli or anti-Arafat sentiment?
posted by substrate at 10:52 AM on May 29, 2002


But a corporation DOES have the right to terminate someone that is acting contrary to the interests of their firm, or the firm's owner/s.

So how would this apply to an employee who writes a letter to the local newspaper in support of raising the minimum wage?
posted by Ty Webb at 10:55 AM on May 29, 2002


srboisvert, the fundamental disagreement is between those who look at employment as an "entitlement" and those that look at it as a commercial arrangement, just like any other. Of course, proponents of the "entitlement" argument don't like the necessary corrolary -- that in exchange for the employer's restriction on termination, it should be equally difficult for the employee to leave to go work somewhere else. Suddenly that smacks of a restraint on freedom (which it is).

In any case, the simple fact is that the U.S. is built on the "at will" framework: you can be terminated for any reason or no reason at all (just as you can leave for any reason). As a matter of policy certain limited exceptions have been created: you can't terminate based on membership in certain protected classes (race, age, religion, etc.) I think what Faze is suggesting is that the free market is as effective -- if not more effective -- at policing employers. In a competitive world, an employer who terminates employees for silly reasons will have great difficulty retaining and recruiting talented employees, and will soon find itself at a competitive disadvantage. That kind of pressure is far more effective than well-intentioned but ineffective legislation.
posted by pardonyou? at 11:02 AM on May 29, 2002


If the employer wants to fire the minimum-wage advocate, why shouldn't he or she not be able to do so? Any employer who would so so would be an a**hole, but there's no law against that. If the fired employees don't like it, they can start their own companies in competion with their former boss, and put him or her out of business.
posted by Faze at 11:06 AM on May 29, 2002


Of course I believe that a corporation should be able to fire anybody for any reason it wants.

Including the color of the employee's skin, right, Faze? No wonder Harry Browne keeps getting so few votes.
posted by mediareport at 11:21 AM on May 29, 2002


So much for the labor movement, I guess.
posted by ook at 11:28 AM on May 29, 2002


the free market is as effective -- if not more effective -- at policing employers

Oh, bullshit. If the all-powerful free market were an effective policing force we could just do away with our criminal justice system and deal with crime by ostracizing people. The market only works punitively in absolutely extreme cases: that's all that an ever-more jaded public will bother to keep track of. I mean, are you going to not eat at McDonalds because they wrongfully fired an employee? What if Burger King fired two? Jack-in-the-Box fired three? Do you still care? Is it more important than one of them being closer to you than the other? Or whether you're in the mood for chicken?

Work isn't an entitlement, but freedom of speech is, and it's pretty easy to see that right become very very theoretical in the face of ever-increasing public relations hypersensitivity on the part of companies in general. What the real solution to this would be is a cultural separation of the companies from the people who work for them. The notion that every employee represents their company 100% of the time really needs to be squished.
posted by furiousthought at 11:31 AM on May 29, 2002


In a competitive world, an employer who terminates employees for silly reasons will have great difficulty retaining and recruiting talented employees, and will soon find itself at a competitive disadvantage. That kind of pressure is far more effective than well-intentioned but ineffective legislation.

In a perfect world, maybe, but not in cases where unemployment is high enough to over-favor the employer. In such situations it is proper for the government to step in if there is evidence of punitive termination.

If the fired employees don't like it, they can start their own companies in competion with their former boss, and put him or her out of business.

Yeah, that made sense in your economics 101 textbook, but that's about it. It's called reality.
posted by Ty Webb at 11:35 AM on May 29, 2002


By Jewish Interests, I wasn't trying to be antisemitic or inflammatory or raise the specter of the mythic "elders of Zion". Israel, is by it's very nature a country run by and for the Jewish people.

The Law of Return offers no practical way for anyone who isn't Jewish to emigrate to Israel, even if they are the wife or child of an Israeli. Non-Jews who work their way through the system are required to renounce their former citizenships, whereas Jews immigrated to Israel are allowed to maintain dual citizenship, according the the Citizenship Laws of 1952.

Basic Law: Knesset (Amendment No. 7) (1985), adopted 10 years after UN Resolution 3379, prohibits a political candidate from participating in an election on a platform that does not coincide with the exclusivist definition of the state of Israel as "the state of 'the Jewish people. "

The Absentee Property Law (1950), gives Israeli's the right to take and redistribute property from any non-Jew, even when the original owner is still there. Hence the settlements and the forced relocation of people to refugee camps.

Ergo, I think it can safely be said that Israeli interests are by their very nature Jewish interests...albeit not necessarily the other way around...which is to say, Jewish interests may not be Israeli interests. But, the goal of Israel is to create a Jewish homeland, by and for the Jews.
posted by dejah420 at 11:38 AM on May 29, 2002


CellDivide:
"Hanna was detained by the Israeli army May 2 after he participated in an attempt to deliver food to armed gunmen and others hiding in Bethlehem's Church of the Nativity. Israel, which viewed many of the Palestinians in the church as suspected terrorists, deported Hanna on May 4." That has nothing to do with the innocent Palestinians you refer to but rather to the terrorist/militants I had mentioned.
Please note: Hana got deported; those not wanted as militant terrorist were freed; and the remaining 13 or so, wanted, were allowed to leave the country, a deal Arafat agreed to.
We clearly do not agree on much but at least let us agree to read carefully what we argue about.
posted by Postroad at 11:41 AM on May 29, 2002


For practical reasons work can't be an entitlement, but once you're employed you must have rights. The employer/employee relationship is an unequal one. If an employee is fired, that changes his/her life, whereas the employer merely loses another cog which can be replaced. The employee may not get another job. It's only fitting that the law protects companies from fucking up people's lives.
posted by Summer at 11:57 AM on May 29, 2002


Let's reverse the scenario. A Saudi-Arabian employee of a multinational oil company that does a lot of business in the US, comes to the US to show his support of Moslems currently being imprisoned as "material witnesses" without charge.
The oil company fires him. Is it fair?


Yes, is it? Why nobody answered kablam's question?
There should be equal protection under the law, not only protection for those people whose ideas we approve of

This should be strictly a legal issue in a legal thread, the I/P stuff should not be relevant. You guys are making this a I/P thread which really confused the issue
(not so subtle accusations of anti-semitism, are they "terrorist" or "militant", all the ugly MeFi I/P thread arsenal)
The thread is about employer's rights to fire somebody for political reasons
I happen to think it's wrong -- wrong when it hits the pro-Israeli, the pro-Palestinians, the pro-choice, the whatever
posted by matteo at 12:38 PM on May 29, 2002


If the fired employees don't like it, they can start their own companies in competion with their former boss, and put him or her out of business

But, that makes him an employee of a competiting business, and may conflict with any non-compete agreements he signed.....
posted by dwivian at 12:55 PM on May 29, 2002


...that he signed freely.

And speaking of minimum wage, I caught Barbara Ehrenreich & Michael Moore on C-SPAN the other day; she argued for a $14/hr minimum wage (which she euphemistically called a "living wage'); Moore "only" called for a $12/hr minimum wage. Would I hire either of them? Not a chance. What they do is *more* than simply writing a letter to the editor; there are differences of degree involved.
posted by davidmsc at 1:17 PM on May 29, 2002


However, a business that fired people for holding a particular political position, would soon find it difficult to recruit the best and brightest from the potential applicant pool, and would lose the competitive edge.

Pipe Dream.

Also, what if the majority of the 'best and the brightest' shared the company's political position... And you were in the minority... Do I see a McDonald's cashier position in your future?
posted by eas98 at 1:25 PM on May 29, 2002


Yes, is it? Why nobody answered kablam's question?

I'm assuming because the answer is obvious, that it isn't any more or less fair than in the original situation...

You guys are making this a I/P thread which really confused the issue

...and to avoid doing that.
posted by rushmc at 1:35 PM on May 29, 2002


As far as kablam's reversed scenario, I think we need a little more info as to what "showing support of Moslems currently imprisoned" would consist of. Protesting outside a police station is one thing, but if someone sneaked into police headquarters and tried to smuggle items to the people imprisoned, that would be quite a different situation. I would imagine that the US Govt. would have a lot of issues with that (and then pressure the Saudis to do something). But since Saudi Arabia is so different from the US anyway, I think it's kind of hard to compare the two...
posted by stifford at 1:37 PM on May 29, 2002


Should corporations have the right to mandate the political views of their employees, contractors and subsidiary workers?

Of course not.
posted by tranquileye at 1:50 PM on May 29, 2002


furiousthought, be careful where you're swinging that "bullshit." It doesn't serve your argument well to analogize to the criminal justice system. The free market has no bearing on that system because it's not profit driven.

And when I'm talking about the market I'm talking large-scale, over time. I could care less whether a particular person would choose McDonalds over Burger King. The point is that if McDonalds makes employment decisions that are not based on maximizing profit, but rather on other considerations (like, for example, a preference of one race over another), over time they will lose the most talented employees, and those employees will go to work for their competitors who do not make irrational employment decisions. Over time, the competitor will have the better employees, and will succeed on that basis. It has nothing to do with the market's knowledge of the employment decisions.
posted by pardonyou? at 1:59 PM on May 29, 2002


No, Moz, it's illegal to fire people in California for political reasons, but the law doesn't extend to contractors...which Hanna was.

Yes ... what a tempest in a teapot. Having been both a contractor and an employee, there are trade-offs. Employees generally get benefits, some measure of job security (or at least seperation packages when they are laid off), and other benefits. Contractors have none of that. Most IT contracts say the company or the employee can terminate the relationship on pretty much a moment's notice, and without any stated cause at all. The employer doesn't even pay the employer portion of the FICA. On the other hand, a contractor's wage rate for a given amount of work is much higher than the wage rate for the same work done by an employee. Who cares if the guy was let go for political activities ... a contractor can be let go simply because he wore blue pants on the day when a manager was in the mood for green.

In addition, though the article is somewhat unclear about details ... it says this guy worked out of the "Munich" office. Even though the company headquarters is in California, if you have employees in another country, they are subject to that country's laws and customs ... and there are a couple of things in particular related to Germany - first, that it does, now and then culturally support the notion that there are limits to free speech (remember, Mein Kampf is forbidden to be sold - even on Amazon - in Germany); and second ... has it occured to anyone why a Munich office might be sensitive about an employee trying to get past Israeli soldiers to support Palestinians? Hands? Anyone remember the 1972 Olympic games in Munich (Germans certainly have not forgotten it)? When Palestinians stormed the Olympic Village, took Israeli atheletes hostage, and ultimately killed them? All of which happened on a foundation of the tremedous soul-searching and not insignificant guilt that many Germans have related to the activities of the Nazis towards the Jews ... [By the way, I have no position one way or another about I/P conflict ... but merely want to mention that it is likely being perceived in Germany much differently than it is in the US].

Even further - that region (Israel/Palestine) is clearly a tinderbox ... and consider that a company doing business there has to concern itself not only with it's business, but with all of it's employees. (By way of example, the company I work for once had an entire office arrested, and it's computers confiscated - primarily due to the activities of an employee in relation to a fringe group of Italian politics. They were freed the next day, and everything returned ... but it was the way a ruling party sent a message to the company).

It's all well and good to talk about the principles of free speech, and portray a company as trying limit political activities. To shake one's head and claim this could have a chilling effect on "freedom". But maybe the reality, as usual, is much messier, and contains a lot more grey areas.
posted by MidasMulligan at 2:00 PM on May 29, 2002


over time they will lose the most talented employees

Do you ever eat fast food? The lack of talented--or even competent--employees does not seem to be a concern of the franchise owners.
posted by rushmc at 2:26 PM on May 29, 2002


but it was the way a ruling party sent a message to the company

I agree with you about the existence of gray areas in this case, Midas Mulligan, but find it difficult to condone your apparent conclusion from your own example that a wrong on the part of a governmental entity excuses a wrong on the part of a corporate one.
posted by rushmc at 2:29 PM on May 29, 2002


I don't think there was a "wrong" on the part of the company to excuse. I've lived the contractor's life ... by some estimates, close to half of the field of skilled IT is contractors ... including a lot of the best ones. It is because one simply has much more freedom, and can make considerably more money. But I also understand that the only source of security is in the state of one's skill set. If you choose that life, you are always looking for your next job, always keeping connections solid and relationships strong. That is, one assumes that every day at a company will be one's last - and one gets quite a bit more money for handling that additional risk. And in fact, the reason so many companies will use contractors, and pay them the extra money, is precisely because they can let them go on a moment's notice. So NO injustice was done to this fellow. What the rest of my post was about was an attempt to explain why that particular company may have exercised it's legimate right to get rid of the guy.
posted by MidasMulligan at 2:48 PM on May 29, 2002


pardonyou?, let me restate:

If an individual does something significantly wrong to another individual, he should be punished for it, yes? So, barring massive incompetence, our criminal justice system arrests that person and punishes him, within a fairly short (months to years) amount of time.

What you're suggesting is that if a company does something significantly wrong to an individual, then the way to punish the company is by relying on word of mouth, karma, and repeated, similar misdeeds by the same company over years and over time until they finally get their just desserts by basically losing popularity, market share, skillful workers. This is essentially the same mechanism as ostracism, and won't achieve justice in our society for the same reasons ostracism won't. Hence we have laws regulating these companies. It's not perfect but it's better than trusting solely in the market.

Oh, and on preview, I agree with the distinctions MidasMulligan is making between contractors and employees. I guess my little argument is a tangent, then.
posted by furiousthought at 3:13 PM on May 29, 2002


What gets me is the perception Cadence has about its customers - that they can't tell the difference between someone doing something in their off-work hours and someone doing something related to their job. The public shoud be offended that this company thinks so lowly of them.

Personally, I think there's more of a personal war of ideologies here than your standard corporate image protection. A political line was drawn and possibly a higher up replied.

In the end, you can fire someone for almost any reason except for a handful of protections. If someone can get fired for getting high a month ago on their own time then this guy's story isn't such a sob story.
posted by skallas at 4:32 PM on May 29, 2002


What the rest of my post was about was an attempt to explain why that particular company may have exercised it's legimate right to get rid of the guy.

It is possible to exercise a legitimate right in an immoral and reprehensible way. And airing such cases publicly is healthy for the system.

Basically I agree with you about contract labor, although it is relatively easy to defend in a high-dollar buyer's market like IT has been than in something like grape-picking.
posted by rushmc at 5:37 PM on May 29, 2002


If someone can get fired for getting high a month ago on their own time then this guy's story isn't such a sob story.

I fail to see the connection...?
posted by rushmc at 5:38 PM on May 29, 2002


I'm generally supportive of an employer's broad discretion in personnel decisions, but in this case, I don't see how it should possibly be legal in the U.S. to use "political actions" as a legitimate reason to fire someone. Would we support an employer who woke up one morning and decided to terminate the contracts of all of the registered Democrats who worked for him?
posted by rcade at 5:56 PM on May 29, 2002


...an employer who woke up one morning and decided to terminate the contracts of all of the registered Democrats who worked for him?

Then productivity would rise by 23%. Ba-Zing!

All kidding aside, remember the US Boy Scouts, a partially publicly funded organization and one that receives generous donations and is tax exempt- is able to fire individuals because of their sexual orientation. Indeed, any employer (to my knowledge) is able to fire an employee who is gay (or who they believe to be gay) with almost no repercussions, aside from some bad publicity, which is out and out discrimination.
posted by evanizer at 6:08 PM on May 29, 2002


rushmc, I didn't start the fast food analogy -- I agree that it's a bad one for macroeconomic principles.
posted by pardonyou? at 6:09 PM on May 29, 2002


What gets me is the perception Cadence has about its customers - that they can't tell the difference between someone doing something in their off-work hours and someone doing something related to their job. The public should be offended that this company thinks so lowly of them.

Goodness - read the article. Cadence is not concerned about the US public, it is concerned about it's business in Israel. The moment it became public, in Israel, that an employee of Cadence had done what that fellow did, it is likely that a good number of Cadence contracts in Israel would dry up. A number of comments in this thread (and to some degree, the article itself) seem to be acting as though this was a situation that happened in the US, by an employee in San Francisco. It didn't. You think an Israeli company is going to make that delightful distinction between "work hours" and "off hours"? The I/P situation is merely a matter of CNN scrolling headlines in the US. Both the Israelis and Palestinians, however, are existing in something close to a state of outright war. Not only is Cadence - if it is doing business in Israel - not thinking "lowly" of it's Israeli customers if it assumes that they won't care whether it was "off hours" or "work hours", it would actually be pretty damn insulting to their Israeli clients to insist that they should draw such a distinction.

It is possible to exercise a legitimate right in an immoral and reprehensible way. And airing such cases publicly is healthy for the system.

It is if that means airing them in a complete and objective fashion. When they are "aired", however, in an exceedingly slanted way - well that is immoral and reprehensible.

Look what the article did - first stated that he was a contractor, then stated that he was working in Munich, for a company that does business in Israel. Then, it interviews ... not German citizens (whose cultural milieu he worked within), for their reaction to to the situation, but the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California; not German authorities (whose labor laws govern Munich employees), but the flippin' California Department of Industrial Relations ... who naturally opined that firing an employee for political activity is illegal in California. Well great - what does that have to do with this incident? He wasn't an employee, and he wasn't in California.

Even that fellow, however, wound up adding that "... the state law generally does not apply to contractors like Hanna or to employees of foreign subsidiaries.". No shit! simply because a company is headquartered in California doesn't mean that it's legislature has the right to govern employees in Germany (damn good thing too - unless you want to accept that it's fine for a Chinese subsidiary in San Francisco to employ 10 year olds and pay them $1.50 a day).

In other words, the article gave one paragraph to an Israeli consulate fellow in San Francisco, interviewed California civil liberties and labor people, didn't even mention how serious an incident this would be to Israeli clients of Cadence, or even hint at the extraordinary sensitivity that might exist in Germany surrounding the I/P conflict (who's customs, culture. and labor representatives are the ones that are relevant here).

I found this article to be the height of US centric arrogance. Judging the entire world as though it ought to comply with the standards and "moral" sensibilities of Silicon Valley culture, without even the (seemingly) slightest awareness of the current business climate in Israel, nor the history, sensibilities, (or even labor laws) of the German people. As the article portrays the situation, the company did, indeed, "exercise a legitimate right in an immoral and reprehensible way".

However, if ones views the entirety of the situation, it is not the company, the the article itself that - in exercising it's right to print whatever the hell it wants, did, itself, "exercise a legitimate right in an immoral and reprehensible way".
posted by MidasMulligan at 9:12 PM on May 29, 2002




It doesn't serve your argument well to analogize to the criminal justice system. The free market has no bearing on that system because it's not profit driven.

I beg to differ.


One can profit from a system that is not itself profit-driven. It's pretty absurd to suggest that the criminal justice system locks up people in prison so that Verizon can make some cash on prisoners' collect calls.
posted by ljromanoff at 8:13 AM on May 30, 2002


One can profit from a system that is not itself profit-driven. It's pretty absurd to suggest that the criminal justice system locks up people in prison so that Verizon can make some cash on prisoners' collect calls.

Yes. My goodness, Greenpeace uses phone, buys computers, pays rent, purchases boats, diesel fuel ... (in fact there are entire websites, publications, and even companies operating with the expressed purpose of servicing non-profit organizations.)
posted by MidasMulligan at 9:24 AM on May 30, 2002


i don't think the issue is whether it's legal to fire the guy for his actions outside of work -- it shouldn't be legal, in my opinion, but so far i am not in charge of everything. the point is, this is corporate power squelching -- or attempting to squelch, through intimidation, an employee's right to express him or herself freely. It doesn't really matter what point of view the guy took, or what the issue mighht have been. He could have been a white supremacist who maintained a nasty website spouting views we would all oppose, but he does have a first amendment right to do it.

when corporate image-management gets in the way of individual freedoms, we should worry. because in this day and age, corporations often have the same -- or greater, at least in practice, by virtue of their access -- speech rights than individuals. When they have more access, and more power to intimidate individuals to keep their traps shut, we've got a de facto oligarchy.

what we have here is a chilling effect. Sure, the guy should have known he was risking his job, but if he did and that caused him to shut up, are we happy with that?
posted by brookish at 1:59 PM on May 30, 2002


You think an Israeli company is going to make that delightful distinction between "work hours" and "off hours"?

Well, they should, and as Midas probably knows, eventually they will...with great power comes great responsibility...

The "fragilism" which spawned and sustains much of the obeisance which corporations today enjoy is losing some of its lustre - corporations keep failing anyway, often in flagrantly crooked fashion. Better to pretend fealty to individual rights, better to imitate morality, than to suffer political interference, I would think.

Smart corporations are currently expending much time and effort studying the corporate ethic - they fully enjoy their current unprecedented ascendancy, they fully enjoy government's shriveling influence, and they fully intend to preserve this delightful state of affairs by keeping a careful eye on lines in the sand drawn by wee ones worried about corporate infringement of individual rights. They realize that stepping too far over, too often, will eventually prompt unwelcome and intrusive political response. As governments continue to cede more and more power and responsibility to corporations, corporations will be forced to behave more and more like governments, and they may very well find themselves forced to guarantee worker autonomy, or risk the re-emergence of strong, countervailing, democratic overseer institutions bulging with nightmare populist agendas.

"To put it in its starkest form, capitalism is perfectly compatible with slavery...Democracy is not compatible with slavery." --Thurow

While it's currently chic to surrender all manner of personal freedom to the entity who writes the paychecks - shorten the leash too much and people will eventually get cranky...and their recourse will be that pesky political process. Duality was cool for a while, but corporate ascendance threatens government/corporate equivalence, and corporations would do well, I think, to make adjustments to their traditionally adversarial relationship to individual rights.

From what I've read, the crafty ones are doing just that.

Then again, I really don't know squat about this stuff...
posted by Opus Dark at 3:06 PM on May 30, 2002


He could have been a white supremacist who maintained a nasty website spouting views we would all oppose, but he does have a first amendment right to do it.

Sigh. Please READ the article? He is working in the GERMAN subsidiery, in MUNICH. It is GERMAN law that applies - despite the fact that the article, and half the comments, seem to be assuming that US customs, California labor laws, and (in this case) the US Bill of Rights is applicable.
posted by MidasMulligan at 5:13 PM on May 30, 2002


It's pretty absurd to suggest that the criminal justice system locks up people in prison so that Verizon can make some cash on prisoners' collect calls.

Perhaps you didn't read the whole series of articles but you did see the headline:Corporate-Sponsored Crime Laws?

One can profit from a system that is not itself profit-driven--and if one profiting therefrom forms political action committees to pass 3 Strike laws and longer sentencing legislation, one can profit even more, which breaks down your rhetorical firewalls for me. The phrase Prison-Industrial Complex is not exactly dripping with amniotic fluid--it's been around fora while...
posted by y2karl at 7:56 PM on May 30, 2002


Perhaps you didn't read the whole series of articles.

Or perhaps I did.

one profiting therefrom forms political action committees to pass 3 Strike laws and longer sentencing legislation

So you really believe that three strike laws exist in order to line someone's pockets and not as a response to repeat felons? I don't even know where to begin. I guess the fact that tougher sentencing measures have had proven success around the country had nothing at all to do with their popularity.

The phrase Prison-Industrial Complex is not exactly dripping with amniotic fluid--it's been around fora while

That it's been around for a while doesn't mean anyone should take it seriously. The phrase Faked Moon Landing has been around for a while, too.
posted by ljromanoff at 8:34 AM on May 31, 2002




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