"Madame, bear in mind That princes govern all things--save the wind." -Victor Hugo, The Infanta's Rose

Friday, November 03, 2006

The Bird and the Bush

Inappropriate Behavior or Protected Free Speech?

True story here: It's Friday, June 16th in Seattle, Washington. President Bush is in town visiting Republican Rep. Dave Reichert; the two men are slowly driving along in their motorcade. One of the vehicles stopped so the procession can pass is a school bus, driven by an unidentified 43-year old woman. The driver is taking a group of middle school children back to school after a zoo visit.

As the presidential motorcade passes the bus, the children wave; with the windows down in their car, Bush and Reichert wave back.

That’s when the driver flips off the president with the classic middle-finger salute.

“The congressman hadn’t seen it, but the president turned to him and said, ‘That one’s not a fan,”’ said Reichert spokeswoman Kimberly Cadena.

School officials learned about the incident after the driver boasted to colleagues about it, and the driver was promptly fired. She has since filed a union grievance in an attempt to get her job back; the case is currently pending.

School district spokeswoman Sara Niegowski said the driver has filed a wrongful termination grievance through the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, claiming the firing violates her right to freedom of speech and expression. However, Niegowski said the firing was not politically motivated.

“The bus driver was not terminated for making an obscene gesture at the president. The bus driver was terminated for making an obscene gesture in view of the students,” Niegowski said. “That’s not the role model we need for our students.”

Read the full story here.


The Insubordinate Bumper Sticker

In a similar incident, a San Diego woman is suing her former employer, claiming that she was fired from her job as a sales representative for American Marketing Co. as a result of having a bumper sticker on her car for the liberal-leaning "Air America" progressive talk radio network. According to Linda Laroca, three weeks after she started working for the marketing company, her supervisor called her on a Saturday and requested they meet at a nearby grocery store parking lot so Laroca could pass on some documents her supervisor needed.

During the brief encounter, Laroca charges, the manager pointed to the bumper sticker -- the only one on Laroca's car -- and remarked that it was for "that Al Franken left-wing radical radio station."

Laroca alleges in her suit that her supervisor then said, "The country is on a high state of alert. For all I know, you could be al-Qaida." A stunned Laroca laughed nervously at the statement, the suit alleges, and then was dealt "the final blow" when she was summarily fired on the spot.

Firing a person because you don't like his or her politics runs contrary to just about everything this country stands for, yet it happens all the time. Frequently there are underlying issues, and the company is looking for any excuse it can find to get rid of the person, even though the extracurricular activities that caused offense were entirely unrelated to the fired person's job and were not performed, or even discussed, in the workplace.

In a classic example from 2004, an Alabama woman was fired from her job because her boss demanded that she remove a Kerry/Edwards bumper sticker from her car. She said her boss told her, "I could either work for him or John Kerry."

She refused to remove the sticker and was fired soon afterwards. However, the Democratic candidate, upon hearing of the incident and seeing an opportunity to make political hay out of it, called the woman and personally offered her a job in his campaign office. "He was telling me how proud of me he was for standing up to my boss, and how he had read what my boss had said," the woman stated. Senator Kerry then told her, "Have him know that you're working for me now. You're hired." She accepted the offer.

Next Tuesday will be interesting, but I can't freaking wait for 2008.

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