Today’s News & Commentary — December 18, 2017

Published December 18th, 2017 -  - 12.18.1716


According to Washington Post reporter Matt Zapotosky, Judge Kozinski has announced his retirement from the bench, effective immediately. The Washington Post reported on Friday that nine more women have accused 9th Circuit Judge Alex Kozinski of inappropriate sexual behavior – bringing the total number of women who have accused Judge Kozinski to fifteen. The circuit’s Chief Judge, Sidney Thomas, asked Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts to assign the investigation into Kozinski’s conduct to another circuit to maintain impartiality. The Chief Justice assigned the investigation to the Second Circuit judicial council on Friday. At least one of Kozinski’s clerks has resigned since the accusations surfaced.

Dahlia Lithwick, at Slate, wrote a very personal account of her experiences with Judge Kozinski. She argues that Kozinski made the women he harassed both victims and accomplices:

Kozinski forced us all into this mess with him. And still, I am aware as I write this that I should have found my footing, that the women who came up after me, and who spoke up, are manifestly braver than I was. I am further aware that my failure to speak up over the course of my career is part of the reason why it was possible for the women who came after me to be treated as disrespectfully as they were.

Lithwick mentions that she did report Kozinski’s behavior at the time to the judge she was clerking for, but, while shocked, he appeared to do nothing about it. The accusations against Kozinski also further highlight the gendered pipeline to Supreme Court clerkships. Rebecca Traister argues that this #metoo moment is actually not (just) about sex, but is about who holds power in work environments. “What [the movement is] really about is work, and women’s equality in the workplace, and more broadly, about the rot at the core of our power structures that makes it harder for women to do work because the whole thing is tipped toward men.” Sexual harassment does not have to rise to the level of assault and rape for it to have a devastating impact on the value of women in the workplace. Amanda Taub at the New York Times, writing about her admiration for Heidi Bond, argues that one sexual harasser can rob a generation of powerful and inspirational women.

#metoo: The Pew Research Center released survey data on Thursday showing that forty-two percent of women report experiencing gender discrimination in the workplace. A separate question found that twenty-two percent of women reported experiencing sexual harassment in the workplace.

Clare Malone at FiveThirtyEight details how the #metoo movement has failed to stand-up for and protect women in low-wage jobs – and wonders if and when the movement will catch-up. “If I’m a low-wage worker who works in a restaurant and I’m not in a union, and I’m in a state where I’m working with a minimum wage, the customer has control over my work conditions,” said KC Wagner, director of workplace issues at Cornell University’s labor institute. Much of the reported sexual harassment is occurring in fast growing industries where workers have little support from unions. “An analysis by the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank, found that most sexual harassment claims filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission come from the accommodation and food services sector, followed by retail, manufacturing, and health care and social assistance jobs.”

At the New York Times take a look at “The Reckoning: Women and Power in the Workplace,” a collection of essays and art from women about the complicated discussions we’ve been having, and how to move forward.

On an different note: for the fifth time this past week the five-member National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has overruled an Obama-era ruling. On Friday the NLRB ruled 3-2 that “a unionized unit of about 100 welders and ‘rework specialists’ at a manufacturing company in Oregon was improper, and should include all 2,500 employees at the company’s facility.” This ruling upends the NLRB’s 2011 ruling in Specialty Healthcare, which raised the bar for businesses to challenge bargaining units.

Ryanair has said it is prepared to recognize pilot unions as it seeks to avoid strike disruption over the holidays. The Dublin-based budget airline wrote to pilot unions in Ireland, the UK, Germany, Italy, Spain and Portugal inviting them to talk in an effort to avoid planned pilot strikes on December 20th. And apparently the invitation has worked – for now – pilots in Ireland have suspended their plans to strike in anticipation of The Impact union, which represents Irish-based pilots, meeting with Ryanair’s management on Tuesday.

In a column for The Washington Post, Joe Davidson lays out exactly how James Sherk – Trump’s labor adviser from the Heritage Foundation – wants to cut wages and benefits for federal employees. See Sherk’s report “Why It Is Time to Reform Compensation for Federal Employees.” Davidson argues that “ ‘reform’ really does not convey the serious bite of [Sherk’s] proposals. The central thesis is that federal workers are overcompensated compared with those in the private sector. [He has] outlined a plan to cut those costs — a blueprint that Sherk can now follow from a position of influence in the White House.”

Also in federal government news, the New York Times details how E.P.A. employees who spoke out against Scott Pruitt or President Trump, quickly were targeted by FOIA requests to gain access to emails. These requests were filed by a “Virginia-based lawyer working with America Rising, a Republican campaign research group that specializes in helping party candidates and conservative groups find damaging information on political rivals.” Pruitt has now hired an affiliate of American Rising, named Definers Public Affairs, to provide “media monitoring for the E.P.A. As one E.P.A. employee, who was targeted after participating in a union rally said: “This is a witch hunt against E.P.A. employees who are only trying to protect human health and the environment…What they are doing is trying to intimidate and bully us into silence.”

And once more for the people in the back: please don’t hang mistletoe from your pants belt at the office holiday party.

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