You've come to an old part of SW Online. We're still moving this and other older stories into our new format. In the meanwhile, click here to go to the current home page.
Views in brief

May 6, 2005 | Page 4

Bigotry at Blue Cross
Left ignores disability rights
Stand up for gay rights
Is Wal-Mart discriminating?
Putting our rights in peril

Tagging people like animals

THIS MONTH'S Scientific American reports a technological advancement one would only imagine in the pages of George Orwell's 1984. Radio tags are now being used as human tracking devices.

Recently tried on seventh and eighth graders at Brittan Elementary School in Sutter, Calif., the tags were supposed to improve safety and cut down on vandalism. After parents protested and the ACLU declared it unconstitutional, the tags were removed.

However, this didn't stop the Bush administration from utilizing the technology. According to Scientific American, "The Department of Homeland Security has already strapped more than 1,700 immigrants applying for permanent residency with ankle bracelets to prevent those who may be ordered for deportation from fleeing." MSN has reported the use of radio tags to track sex offenders as well.

This outlandish attack on civil liberties must be exposed.
Afsaneh Moradian, New York City

Back to the top

Bigotry at Blue Cross

WHEN RON Batista, former CEO of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Rhode Island (BCBSRI), was fired without cause, Joe Giarusso got angry. Not because Batista was fired, but because he received a $3 million golden parachute when he left the company.

Giarusso, on the other hand, only received a 12-week severance package--after he took BCBSRI to court.

Although he was officially fired without cause back in March 2003, Giarusso says the real reason he was let go is that he is an outspoken gay man. Outraged, Joe Giarusso began picketing the health insurance giant alone in late November. The picket sign he brings with him simply says, "Blue Cross is homophobic."

The full cost of losing his job only sunk in after he couldn't find consistent work elsewhere. "You don't realize what they're taking from you until you try to go for another job and you're over 50," he explained.

Giarusso worked at BCBSRI for 17 years, and from the beginning, Jack Emerson was "on edge." When Emerson later became his boss, Giarusso found out what workplace homophobia and corporate back-stabbing look like. Emerson told supervisors to downgrade Giarusso's performance reviews; blocked an interview for a possible promotion despite Giarusso's exemplary qualifications; and made sure Giarusso received unfavorable work assignments. When Giarusso filed complaints about unfair treatment, the attacks only escalated.

To Giarusso, it is clear that his treatment and termination stem from more than a personal vendetta. "Blue Cross is a very authoritarian organization," Joe says. According to Giarusso, management was always looking for an error to blame on the staff. The workplace environment was so stressful that someone actually died of a heart attack at work several years ago.

But Joe wouldn't take any crap. "Jack [Emerson] doesn't like anyone who stands up for themselves," he said. "He would have overlooked the fact that I was gay if I let him dump on me."

Nit-picking and discrimination contributed to the oppressive atmosphere. Three gay men lost their jobs before Giarusso, one of them for wearing sandals on casual dress day. Giarusso recalls that a dark-skinned Cape Verdean woman with top performance marks was passed over for promotion in favor of a white woman. Apparently, the deciding supervisor "felt more comfortable" with the white woman. Almost all of the top tier in the corporate hierarchy are white men.

Giarusso hasn't decided whether to pursue another recourse; his severance agreement may stipulate that he has no legal right to sue the company. But for now, he just wants to raise awareness about gay discrimination and to let other workers know what management will try to get away with. "They did this to me," he says. "They could do this to anybody."
John Osmand, Providence, R.I.

Back to the top

Left ignores disability rights

SHERRY WOLF simply does not get it. In her letter to Socialist Worker, she defends the right to die and condemns an earlier letter that correctly pointed out the ableist biases in Clint Eastwood's film, Million Dollar Baby ("The right to choose to die," April 15).

She states that socialists should defend both rights for people with disabilities and the right to die. This may be all fine and good in the abstract, but the reality is that disability rights have long been ignored by the left.

Many radical meetings from all segments of the left are held in spaces that are not wheelchair accessible. Systematic attention to disability discrimination, such as producing a pamphlet on the question that clearly identifies disability as a social construct, has rarely been granted by the vast majority of American left groups.

Just as second-wave feminism and anti-racist activists had to struggle to convince a left polluted by Stalinism to take their social movements seriously, disability rights groups have struggled to make their voice heard. If a left organization wants to uphold a right to die for consenting adults (which still leaves messy cases like Schiavo unclear where one cannot confirm consent after the injury has taken place), this must only be in the context of significant support for disability rights, or else the intervention seems inevitably insulting to disability organizations.

All segments of the American left, and most certainly the revolutionary socialist left, have a long history of ignoring the voices of people with disabilities. Wolf is mistaken to ignore this context.
Ravi Malhotra, Toronto, Canada

Back to the top

Stand up for gay rights

ON MARCH 30, three men accused of severely beating Seattle resident Micah Painter, who is gay, were found guilty of malicious harassment and assault with a deadly weapon. King County prosecutors failed to convince a jury that first-degree assault charges were warranted. One man will face two years, and the other two will face nine to 15 months.

During the court case, the defense created an atmosphere of homophobia. The defense attorneys were quoted as saying that the assailants were victims of "gay activists" and were being prosecuted "so that Micah becomes another victim, another Matthew Shepard." The defense hinted that Painter had it coming because he was wearing "flamboyant garb," and since the assailants were Russian immigrants, gays were "foreign to them." They argued that they were acting in self-defense to a drug-crazed Painter, who flipped the assailants off after they yelled homophobic epithets.

The incident happened in Seattle's Capitol Hill neighborhood, which is home to one of the largest gay communities in the U.S. Micah Painter was walking home after a night of partying during Seattle's annual gay pride weekend last year. While walking down the same street that had been filled hours earlier with 50,000 people at the pride parade, he was viciously beaten by three men wielding a broken liquor bottle and yelling anti-gay slurs. Left for dead, Painter was rushed to the hospital, where he remained in intensive care for weeks.

The Seattle Police Department (SPD) at first didn't even investigate this as a hate crime, which comes with a higher investigative priority and stiffer sentences. It wasn't until hundreds of community members rallied against the SPD's unwillingness to classify the beating as a hate crime that the SPD even took this seriously. In the end, the three men responsible for the vicious assault were arrested on the tip of a local Seattle resident.

The possibility of stopping these gay bashings exists. On March 8, the state Supreme Court began hearing the arguments for gay marriage. Activists in Seattle responded with a spirited march last month, where nearly 1,000 came out to support gay marriage.

Unfortunately, some recent setbacks have occurred. Just three weeks ago another local man, Tim Alf was gay-bashed in his own apartment, after inviting two men into his home. One of the assaulters said that he assaulted Alf because he was "flirting" with him.

Just last week, two state senate Democrats voted with Republicans in sending the Anderson-Murray anti-discrimination bill, which would outlaw discrimination in such areas as employment and housing for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender, and people with disabilities, to a committee hostile to the bill. This is a bureaucratic attempt to kill the bill before the senate adjourns on April 15.

This bill has been lobbied for since 1975. Many gay rights activists have hoped it would finally pass this year since Democrats have control over both houses of senate and the governorship. Unfortunately, some activists have argued not to link the bill to the fight for gay marriage in this state, so as not to scare conservative Democrats.

Instead, we should build off of the momentum of the spirited fight for gay marriage to send a message to the gay-bashing bigots, whether they be in the seat of government or thugs in the streets: They're not welcome, and we want justice!
Chris Mobley, Seattle

Back to the top

Is Wal-Mart discriminating?

I LIVE on the border of Kentucky and Tennessee. There are five Wal-Marts within 15 miles from where I live, plus a distribution center and a Sam's Club, I, as well as other women I have talked to, have put in applications at all of them with no luck.

I have a high school diploma and a very good job record. I also went through four interviews with the distribution center--only to get a letter in the mail saying that I was not needed. I don't have experience in a warehouse, but have loaded trucks all my life. My father drove a truck all over the United States, and I have unloaded many. I am a single parent who is hardworking and not scared of work.

I feel Wal-Mart is discriminating against women. I know women can do the same jobs as men, Wal-Mart just refuses to give us a chance.
Anonymous, from the Internet

Back to the top

Putting our rights in peril

CERTAIN PARTS of the USA PATRIOT Act are due to expire this year unless Congress acts. The Bush administration wants these provisions made permanent. I am against terrorism, but I support the rights and civil liberties of innocent Americans.

After 9/11, the FBI asked for the power to inspect medical and library records, and they gained the right to enter your home without your knowledge, permission or even a warrant. The entire PATRIOT Act should be temporary, and all ''national security'' legislation should be reviewed.
Chuck Mann, from the Internet

Home page | Back to the top