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ACLU * ACLU * ACLU * ACLU * ACLU * ACLU * ACLU * ACLU * ACLU NEWS RELEASE * NEWS RELEASE * NEWS RELEASE * NEWS RELEASE ACLU Declares State of Emergency in the American Workplace; Announces Campaign For Bill of Rights for Workers For IMMEDIATE RELEASE December 18, 1990 WASHINGTON -- The American Civil Liberties Union, joined by representatives of Congress, labor, religion and business, today said that civil liberties are virtually nonexistent in the American workplace and called for the adoption of a Bill of Rights for Employees. "The lack of civil liberties in the American workplace is a national scandal," said Ira Glasser, the Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union. "To address this serious problem, we have created a National Task Force on Civil Liberties in the Workplace. Its mission is to do nothing less than change our laws to extend basic civil liberties into the American workplace." In a report prepared by Lewis Maltby, the Coordinator of the Task Force, the ACLU found that the fundamental American values protected by the Constitution's Bill of Rights stop at the factory gate and office lobby. From the basic right of freedom of speech to the more sophisticated right to due process, the ACLU found that the American worker enjoys virtually none of the protections that we all take for granted in our daily lives. "There is a crisis in the workplace of a magnitude unseen in many decades," Maltby said. The ACLU will attempt to bring its proposed Employees Bill of Rights to life by working to pass legislation in Congress and in state legislatures. In addition, the ACLU will continue to bring lawsuits against restrictive employer practices and will also continue to educate the public about their lack of rights in the workplace. "The American Civil Liberties Union," the proposed Bill of Rights says, "believes that the basic civil liberties should be protected from abuse in the world of work." The document then outlines six areas--including Freedom of Speech, the Right to Organize, Privacy, Fair Discipline, Equal Treatment and Legal Protection--where rights are lacking in the workplace. At a news conference today, the ACLU was joined by U.S. Congressman William Clay, a Democrat of Missouri who chairs the House Subcommittee on Labor-Management Relations of the Labor Committee. Howard D. Samuel, the President of the Industrial Union Department of the AFL-CIO, also endorsed the ACLU's efforts. Dr. Sidney Harman, the chairman and chief executive officer of Harman International, and George Ogle, the Program Director of the Department of Social and Economic Justice of the General Board on Church and Society of the United Methodist Church, also attended the news conference. "The ACLU's proposed Employees Bill of Rights is an important document," Congressman Clay said. "I have introduced legislation and will continue to push proposals to give the Employees Bill of Rights the force of law." Samuel, a longtime labor leader, also endorsed the Bill of Rights. "Civil liberties do not stop at the factory door," he said. "We welcome the ACLU's support for labor's efforts to expand the rights of working people." In its report, the ACLU said the denial of civil liberties in the workplace can have several severe consequences, including contributing to physical health problems such as mental illness, alcoholism and suicide. In addition, the report said that the lack of freedom at work has contributed to the nation's fall from grace in international trade competition. Among the Western industrial nations, the report said, only the United States and South Africa fail to protect civil liberties at work. "Not coincidentally, the world's most successful economies -- Germany, Sweden and Japan -- have changed their laws to protect the rights of employees," the report said. At the news conference, Dr. Harman, a former U.S. Deputy Secretary of Commerce, said that businesses must realize they can protect the rights of their employees and still be profitable. "Far from undermining productivity and profits," he said, "progressive employee relations policies enhance the companies that operate them." His call was supported by Mr. Ogle of the United Methodist Church. "Civil liberties in the workplace are part of the larger question of social justice that we are most concerned about," he said. In addition to the proposed Employees Bill of Rights, the ACLU report concludes with several recommendations on ways to solve the problems of a lack of freedom in the workplace. The possibilities, it said, ranged from continued litigation to a Constitutional amendment. The report concludes, however, that state legislatures are the most likely arena for significant change. With that conclusion, the ACLU recommends adoption of three statutes at the state level: A comprehensive workplace privacy statute; a statute guaranteeing all Americans the right to be judged only on their job performance, and a statute protecting workers from unjust firing. The ACLU is preparing model statutes in several of these areas and plans to have them introduced in many state legislatures this year. "Early in this century, Henry Ford dispatched detectives to the homes of all of his employees to investigate their morals, church attendance and political beliefs," Maltby of the ACLU said. "Other employers routinely retained private armies to attack workers who protested wages or working conditions. "Just as employers defend their actions today, at one time the practices of Henry Ford and his colleagues were seen as necessary intrusions into their employees' lives," Maltby added, "We need to get past such attitudes and develop a national commitment to extend the Bill of Rights to the workplace." --endit--


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