PEOPLE FOR BLOG

Wisconsin News Round-up: 6/27/11

News from Wisconsin:

Candidates:

Other news:

Finally: I’ve found this resource to be extremely useful.

As always, follow our campaign at RecallTheRight.org.

PFAW

Getting Your Day in Court Not So Simple?

We thought you might be interested in an HBO documentary, which premiers tonight, about the barriers to access that many Americans face when trying to seek justice in a court of law. The film discusses the impact of corporate influences on the judicial system and their implications for the civil rights of average Americans.

Here’s the trailer:

PFAW

Spirit of a Serial Killer

John Wayne: Rugged. Distinctive. An enduring American Icon. It’s no wonder that Michele Bachmann, as she kicks off her presidential campaign, wants to embody these qualities.

"Well what I want them to know is just like, John Wayne was from Waterloo, Iowa. That's the kind of spirit that I have, too," said Bachmann.

Well, it turns out that Bachmann’s fellow Waterloonian is not John Wayne the movie star, but John Wayne Gacy, the serial killer.

According to the Washington Times, Gacy began his life of crime in Waterloo, before moving on to Illinois, where he picked up a whopping 33 murder convictions before his eventual execution in 1994.

On Face the Nation, Bachmann passed up an opportunity to correct the 16 statements identified by PolitiFact as “False” or “Pants on Fire” – let’s see if she’ll stand by this little gaffe as well.

  

PFAW

Ohio Gov. John Kasich's Secret Video

In this by-invitation-only video, Ohio’s governor, John Kasich, sings praises to “the fighters of freedom, the grassroots leaders of American for Prosperity (AFP)”. While he was at it, he might have well just given a big thanks to Charles and David Koch, the financial sponsors of AFP, as well as large donors to the governor’s campaign.

So why exactly is Kasich thankful for Americans for Prosperity?

Well, Kasich applauds their support in helping with the privatization of the state’s economy. The new program known as JobsOhio is supposed “to be able to move at the speed of business”. But while it’s promoting corporate profits, JobsOhio will require privatizing five prisons, doing away with the state’s estate tax, and cutting funding for schools and local governments. Townships are expected to lose 50% of their funding from the state, while schools lose about 11.5%. That equates to roughly 10,000 teachers.

Another accomplishment Kasich celebrates could not have happened without AFP’s support is "government union reform". Translation: union-busting that prevents public workers (including teachers, firefighters, and police officers) from collective bargaining for benefits and from going on strike.

So it is no wonder that Governor Kasich did not want to make this video public. Thanking a group for helping him to cut thousands of jobs, limit workers’ rights, privatize state services, and put a significant tax burden on local governments certainly won’t be a great boost to his 33% approval rating.

PFAW

From Fringe Figure to Movement Leader: Michele Bachmann's Far-Right Roots

Cross posted on The Huffington Post

Rep. Michele Bachmann, who today officially announce her candidacy for the presidency, isn't just a Tea Party candidate - in many ways she embodies the evolution of the movement. The Minnesota congresswoman, who built a reputation as an outspoken and often outrageous defender of extreme social conservatism, is increasingly trying to portray herself as a champion of fiscal conservatism - and using the language of social conservatism to do it. As she attempts to frame herself as a low-tax champion, and tone down her speech to reach a broader audience, it's important to remember where Bachmann's fiscal conservatism comes from. Bachmann represents a newly powerful force in American politics: a hard-right, pro-corporate fiscal conservative wrapped up in the rhetoric of the Religious Right. To know her, you have to know the far-right social movement in which she remains rooted.

A former state legislator who built her career fighting reproductive choice and gay rights, Bachmann continues to ally herself with far-right groups in her home state and to push her extreme ideology in Congress. As a Minnesota state senator, she was known for her radical anti-choice, anti-gay and anti-evolution campaigns. She cosponsored a measure to give "14th Amendment protections to an embryo or fetus," similar to the extreme and likely unconstitutional fetal "personhood" amendments that have been rejected by even very conservative state legislatures in recent months. She has since endorsed one such measure in Ohio, which would ban abortions after the "heartbeat" of a fetus is detected. She cosponsored legislation to undermine the teaching of evolution, stating that people who believe in the science of evolution are part of a "cult following."

But she was perhaps best known for her all-out campaign against gay rights. A People For the American Way report summarized:

In the State Senate, she spearheaded the effort to pass a state constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. "The immediate consequence, if gay marriage goes through," Bachmann said , "is that K-12 little children will be forced to learn that homosexuality is normal, natural and perhaps they should try it." She has also referred to homosexuality as "personal enslavement" and a "sexual identity disorder." Bachmann also promoted the claim that gays and lesbians recruit children, maintaining that her mission to block LGBT rights "is a very serious matter, because it is our children who are the prize for this community, they are specifically targeting our children."

Bachmann's willingness to go to the extreme right of any social debate earned her like-minded friends in Minnesota. She has forged close ties with a pastor named Bradlee Dean and his extreme anti-gay ministry, "You Can Run But You Cannot Hide." Dean believes that homosexuality should be criminalized , and once praised Muslims who call for the execution of homosexuals as "more moral" than toleration-minded American Christians:

Muslims are calling for the executions of homosexuals in America. This just shows you they themselves are upholding the laws that are even in the Bible of the Judeo-Christian God, but they seem to be more moral than even the American Christians do, because these people are livid about enforcing their laws. They know homosexuality is an abomination...Hollywood is promoting immorality and God of the heavens in Jesus' name is warning you to turn from the wrath to come. Yet you have Muslims calling for your execution. If America won't enforce the laws, God will raise up a foreign enemy to do just that. That's what you are seeing today in America.

Dean claims that most gay people are child molesters, estimating that "on average, they molest 117 people before they're found out" and insists that anti-bullying programs in schools amount to "homosexual indoctrination." In one particularly bizarre train of thought , he asserted that Muslim congressman Keith Ellison was working with gay and lesbians to impose Sharia law: "He wants to bring in Sharee [sic] law through the homosexual agenda.... They are using the homosexuals as a political battering ram to bring forth what? Sharee [sic] law." Dean has also accused President Obama of turning the U.S. into a "Muslim nation," and recently roundly appalled the Minnesota state House when he delivered a prayer questioning the president's Christian faith.

Dean's unhinged extremism hasn't turned off Bachmann. She was the host of a 2009 fundraiser for his group, participated in a documentary he made, and delivered a public prayer calling for God to "expand this ministry beyond anything that the originators of this ministry could begin to think or imagine." This summer, Bachmann is scheduled to share the stage with Dean at a Tea Party event in Kansas.

Bachmann also continues to lend her support - including headlining a fundraiser in May -- to the Minnesota Family Council, an anti-gay group that she worked closely with when leading the marriage amendment effort in the state legislature. The MFC has been on the front-lines of the effort to stop numerous gay rights bills in Minnesota, and is active in a renewed push for a marriage amendment. The group backs up its efforts with vicious anti-gay rhetoric. Its president, Tim Prichard, has compared homosexuality to cigarette smoking and has said that comprehensive sex ed in schools would promote "homosexual behavior, anal or oral sex, things like that." Prichard blamed the suicides of four LGBT students on Gay-Straight Alliances and "homosexual indoctrination." The group has been a leading player in the Religious Right's campaign against anti-bullying policies in schools.

And then there was Bachmann's $9,000 donation to a Minnesota group credited with performing "exorcisms" on gay teens. She also remains closely allied with Generation Joshua, a far-right anti-gay group that funnels conservative homeschoolers into right-wing politics, which has dispatched kids to help with her congressional campaigns.

Bachmann has carried the flag of her extremist Minnesota allies to Congress, where in positioning herself as a leader of the Tea Party she loudly embraced the fiscal-issues Right while continuing to feed the social-issues Right.

In an illustration of both sides of the conservative movement merging in the Tea Party, Bachmann invited right-wing pseudo historian David Barton, who believes that Jesus opposed the minimum wage and the progressive income tax - and who Bachmann calls a "national treasure" -- to speak to Congress about the Constitution. Like Barton, Bachmann deftly frames the anti-tax, pro-corporate ideology of fiscal conservatives in the moral language of social conservatives. At a Religious Right conference last month, she called the national debt an "immoral burden on future generations" and lamented that "many are discouraged from marriage by an underperforming economy." She is also fond of invoking the Founding Fathers to make her point about any number of issues, once even advocating reducing the federal government to its "original size." And in a classic Barton technique, she hasn't been above using a totally made-up George Washington quote to bash President Obama.

Bachmann's efforts to merge the small government crowd with the big-government-in-personal-life crowd were again on full display this weekend, as she praised New York's marriage equality vote as an example of states' rights, while continuing to advocate a constitutional amendment that would take away the right of states to expand marriage equality.

Bachmann illustrates the odd brew that has created the Tea Party - the energy of social conservatives papered over with the money of pro-corporate conservatives, mixed up with a new rhetoric that combines the two issues. Her ability to be at home in both worlds makes her an unexpected powerhouse of a candidate...but one whose prominence should continue to be troubling to the American people.

PFAW

Sen. Ron Johnson’s $10 million Deferred Compensation Raises Ethics Questions

Far-right Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI) spent roughly $9 million of his own money last year to finance his senatorial campaign. Lucky for him, shortly after his campaign ended, he received $10 million in deferred compensation from the plastics company he used to run.

This alone would warrant some questions, but the details of the compensation package cast even more suspicion over the deal. According to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel:

Unlike most deferred package deals, however, it appears that the company had not set aside a specified amount annually that would be paid out when he left the firm. Instead, Johnson said the $10 million payment was "an agreed-upon amount" that was determined at the end of his tenure with the company.

 Agreed upon with whom?

"That would be me," he said.

Is it just a coincidence that the amount Johnson spent on his campaign so closely matches the amount he received in compensation? Quite possibly, but it is also enough to provoke some legitimate questions. Long-standing campaign finance laws prohibit corporations from directly funding campaigns for federal office, and if it were to come out that Johnson was reimbursed for his expenditures it would be a major campaign finance violation. So how does Johnson respond to questions about his spending? Again, from the Journal-Sentinel:

The first-term Republican declined to say how his Oshkosh firm, Pacur, came up with a figure that so closely mirrored the amount he personally put into his campaign fund.

 “You take a look in terms of what would be a reasonable compensation package, OK?” Johnson said this week. “It’s a private business. I’ve complied with all the disclosure laws, and I don’t have to explain it any further to someone like you.”

And who is this “someone like you” that Ron Johnson doesn’t have to explain himself to? A reporter asking a legitimate question.

 

H/t to Brian Beutler at TPM

PFAW

Delegate Norton provides approps update, calls on her constituents and DC’s supporters to rally tomorrow

DC Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton had good news and bad news for us after yesterday’s meeting of the House Appropriations Committee.

Today, the House Appropriations committee rejected an amendment to strike the abortion rider from the fiscal year 2012 D.C. Appropriations bill. Norton is pleased that with the critical help of a new coalition of national organizations, no new riders were added to bill, but she said the "city cannot be satisfied until we have returned to the clean D.C. appropriations we achieved when Democrats controlled the House."

While we escaped new riders, the bill is still a problem, and by no means is DC out of the woods on any issue.

Delegate Norton continues:

Norton said that the DC Vote rally is especially timely because the D.C. appropriations bill was passed by the full appropriations committee today and is headed to the House floor with a prohibition on city spending for abortions for low-income women, which must be removed.

"Saturday's rally will make history and serve notice that all branches of government are responsible for protecting the District's rights to local self-governance, particularly its right to spend local funds as it sees fit," said Norton. Saturday will mark the first time I have seen residents and national organizations alike, assemble at the White House to call on an administration to step up to help protect the city's home-rule, and Saturday may well be the first time that a rally has been designed not only for protest, but for fun for all ages, complete with musical performances, poster face-making, and the like. Our families are enthusiastic supporters of democracy for D.C., but those with kids have trouble coming to rallies. A Saturday of fun and protest will be perfect for kids, parents, and the rest of us."

Please join PFAW, Delegate Norton, DC Mayor Vincent Gray, DC Vote, and rally sponsors at tomorrow’s White House Rally for DC Democracy.

Look for our signs and the PFAW and AAMIA logos!

PFAW

Court Lets Corporations Off the Hook For Failing to Warn of Their Dangerous Drugs

The second of the two business-friendly decisions issued by the Corporate Court today was PLIVA v. Mensing, a case involving a woman seriously injured by the generic drugs she took. Since the manufacturer knew that the risks were much greater than had been believed at the time the FDA approved its labeling, she sued in state court over its failure to warn of those risks. Today, the five conservatives ruled that she has no right to file such a lawsuit.

All prescription drugs must have warning labels that are approved by the FDA. Under a recent precedent, if a brand-name drug manufacturer fails to warn consumers of a known risk not on the label, it cannot avoid being sued in state court simply by saying its label was okayed by the FDA. Today's case was similar, except in this case it was a generic drug maker, calling into play a separate federal law that requires generics to use the same warning labels as brand-names.

Gladys Mensing developed a severe and irreversible neurological disorder as a result of her long-term use of a generic drug. At the time, the label indicated that the risk of a disorder of the type she developed was about one in 500 patients. However, according to Mensing, it turned out that the actual incidence was much higher, perhaps as high as one in five patients. Despite mounting evidence that the label greatly understated the risks, none of the companies that manufactured the drug proposed that the FDA modify the warning label.

According to the majority opinion, written by Justice Thomas, the generic drug maker cannot be sued in state court for failing to warn consumers because that state law is preempted by the federal "same label" law. They claimed that the company could not have changed its label without violating federal law. But further than that, they had no obligation to ask the FDA to update the label for the drug (a change that, if adopted, would have applied to the brand name and then, by extension, to the generic). Even if the generic drug maker had gone to the FDA, it could not have changed the label itself until granted permission by the federal government, so Ms. Mensing could not have been warned as required by state law. Compliance with both state and federal law is impossible, according to the majority, so the federal law must preempt the state one under the Supremacy Clause of the United States Constitution.

Justice Sotomayor's dissent (joined by Ginsburg, Breyer, and Kagan) harshly criticized Justice Thomas's reasoning. We do not know if it would really have been impossible for the generic drug manufacturer to have complied with state law by getting the FDA to approve a label change in a timely manner, because it did not even try. Justice Sotomayor writes:

We have traditionally held defendants claiming impossibility to a demanding standard: Until today, the mere possibility of impossibility had not been enough to establish pre-emption.

...

The Court strains to reach [its] conclusion. It invents new principles of pre-emption law out of thin air to justify its dilution of the impossibility standard. It effectively rewrites our [2009] decision in Wyeth v. Levine, which holds that federal law does not pre-empt failure-to-warn claims against brand-name drug manufacturers.

So as of today, the ability of a victim to collect under state law for failure to warn of a prescription drug's dangers depends on happenstance: whether the pharmacist happened to fill the prescription with a brand name or a generic.

Congress has acted over the years to make low-cost generics more widely available to the American people. Surely a result like today's was not its intent.

PFAW

Justice Thomas' Unethical Conduct Highlights Need for Reforms

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas is generating quite a bit of attention these days. Questions abound – not from him, as he hasn’t asked a question during oral arguments for over five years – but from citizens concerned about the integrity of the Court.

Last week, the New York Times profiled Mr. Thomas’ relationship with wealthy corporate benefactors who often have business before the Court. Among them, a man Dallas real estate magnate named Harlan Crow, who generously offered Justice Thomas a $19,000 bible once belonging to Frederick Douglass, half a million dollars to Thomas’ wife so she could start a Tea Party group, and even generous contributions to museums featuring exhibits in the Justice’s honor.

Thomas has attended Koch-sponsored political fundraisers, which underwrite the very sort of front groups that now, thanks in part to Thomas’ vote in the Citizen’s United case, do not need to disclose their spending. And Thomas failed to recuse himself from three cases in which the American Enterprise Institute, which had given him a $15,000 gift, had filed a brief. It’s nice to get nice things, but if you sit on the Supreme Court of the United States, it is a serious problem if those gifts potentially influence – or appear to influence – your official conduct.

Perhaps the root of the problem is that the Judicial Conference Code of Conduct does not apply to Supreme Court justices. A movement is underway in Congress to address this gaping hole in our judicial ethical standards – a flaw that helps create an appearance that justice can be bought by the highest bidder. In a step to fix this flaw, Rep. Christopher Murphy (D-CT) is circulating a letter urging the House Judiciary Committee to investigate potential abuses by Justice Thomas and to consider applying the ethical code of conduct to the Supreme Court as a means to restoring the public’s faith in the integrity of the court.

Considering the concerns raised about Justice Thomas’ potential disregard of ethical boundaries, this call for an investigation is coming none too soon.

 

Check out an article on the subject in the Huffington Post by PFAW President Michael Keegan.

PFAW

Roberts Court Strikes Down Medical Privacy Law in Gift to Pharmaceutical Companies

A divided Supreme Court issued two business-friendly decisions today that demonstrate why, under Chief Justice Roberts, it is frequently called the Corporate Court.

In the first of these, Sorrell v. IMS Health, a 6-3 Court (the five usual suspects joined by Justice Sotomayor) struck down a common-sense medical privacy law passed by Vermont. As part of its comprehensive regulation of pharmaceuticals, the state requires pharmacies to retain certain information about prescriptions and the doctors that order them. Knowing that the drug companies would love to take advantage of this information in order to target doctors to sell more of their product, Vermont protected medical privacy by prohibiting the sale to or use of this data by drug companies without the prescribing doctor's authorization.

According to the Roberts Court, the law allows anyone else to use the data for any other purpose and therefore cannot be defended as protecting medical privacy. It therefore characterizes the law as targeting speech based on the identity of the speaker and the content of the message, thereby triggering heightened First Amendment scrutiny (which – surprise, surprise – the privacy protection law fails to meet).

Justice Breyer's dissent recognizes the Vermont law as the standard, commonplace regulation of a commercial enterprise. It doesn't prohibit or require anyone to say anything, to engage in any form of symbolic speech, or to endorse any particular point of view. It simply addresses a problematic abuse of the prescription data. As the dissenters point out, the federal and state governments routinely limit the use of information that is collected in areas subject to their regulation, as pharmaceuticals have been for over 100 years. Surely heightened First Amendment scrutiny should not be triggered by a law that, for instance, prohibits a car dealer from using credit scores it gets for one purpose (to determine if customer is credit-worthy) for another (to search for new customers).

The dissent states that the Court has never before subjected standard, everyday regulation of this sort to heightened First Amendment scrutiny. Yet this is not the first time that arch-conservative ideologues have taken everyday economic regulation and struck it down on the basis of freedoms enumerated in the Bill of Rights. In fact, the dissenters specifically warn of a return to

the bygone era of Lochner v. New York, in which it was common practice for this Court to strike down economic regulations adopted by a State based on the Court's own notions of the most appropriate means for the State to implement its considered policies.

With Lochner, ideologues routinely struck down consumer and worker protection laws as violating the Due Process Clause so they could impose their own policy preferences. Simply replacing Due Process with Free Speech does not suddenly make this radicalism valid.

PFAW

PFAW asks DC’s residents and supporters to head to the White House this Saturday

The House Appropriations Committee convened this morning at 9:30 am to consider the DC appropriations bill that the DC subcommittee passed last week. We are currently waiting for word on whether any DC riders were added, in addition to those already included in the bill concerning reproductive freedom and public education.

As PFAW continues to wait for news, I’ve asked DC residents and DC rights supporters from the greater metro area to join us at Saturday’s White House Rally for DC Democracy.

Dear PFAW Activist,

Washington, DC residents, who already lack voting representation in Congress, have been treated even more like second-class citizens by this Republican Congress, adding insult to injury.

Republicans used the budget deal earlier this year to attack DC home rule and District women's access to healthcare. They banned the use of local funds (NOT federal tax dollars) from being used for reproductive healthcare for low-income women.

Now, Republicans are threatening a series of "policy riders" on the DC appropriations bill for 2012 that would micro-manage the lives of DC residents from our classrooms to our safety to our health, having already passed more attacks on women's health and public education.

So much for the "party of small government."

Please join us, along with DC residents and DC rights supporters from the greater metro area, THIS SATURDAY, at 11:00am at the White House to tell President Obama to stand up for DC.

Let the president know that this attack on DC residents' fundamental rights is a deal breaker. Both he and the Democratic leadership in the Senate need to stand up for the nearly 600,000 residents of our nation's capital -- come out this Saturday and let them know it.

When: Saturday June 25, 2011, 11:00 AM - 1:00 PM
Where: Lafayette Square (outside White House), 16th & H St NW
Metro: Farragut West (Orange & Blue lines)

Click here to RSVP with our friends at DC Vote. We hope to see you there!

-- Jen Herrick, Senior Policy Analyst

PFAW and AAMIA continue to believe that enough is enough – the people of DC deserve a voice. For more information, please click here.

PFAW

Rep. Cummings Continues to Fight Foreclosure Crisis

Rep. Elijah Cummings, ranking member of the House Oversight and Government Reform committee, sent a letter on Tuesday to the panel’s chairman, Darrell Issa, pressing the leader to subpoena six mortgage servicing companies. This is Cummings’s fourth letter to Issa urging the committee to take action on the foreclosure crisis. In it he notes particular alarm over increasing reports of U.S. service members and their families being illegally evicted from their homes and charged millions of dollars in unwarranted fees.

In February, Cummings and other Democratic committee members sent letters to ten mortgage companies, but only four responded with the requested documents. One company, MetLife, refused to voluntarily release any documentation and said it would only do so if ordered by a subpoena.

Particularly in light of the Committee’s unanimous vote in February of this year to investigate “wrongful foreclosures and other abuses by mortgage servicing companies,” it would be behoove Chairman Issa to grant Cummings’s more than reasonable request.

In these difficult economic times, millions of Americans are paying more than they can afford at the gas pumps, worrying about job security, and losing their homes because of fraudulent and mismanaged foreclosures. It is imperative that Congress fight to hold big banks and mortgage companies accountable for their role in pushing the country into economic crisis.

Chairman Issa must do his part by supporting his Democratic colleagues in their fervent commitment to investigating and responding to mishandled and deceitful mortgage practices. Protecting American families from abuse and other corporate wrongdoings that put their finances in jeopardy is not an issue to be dealt with by playing partisan politics. Congress has a responsibility to stand up for the American people and do everything in its power to get to the bottom of and put an end to the foreclosure crisis.

PFAW

NLRB Proposed Rule is a Victory for Middle Class

Workers, labor unions, and the American people celebrated a tremendous victory for middle class values on Tuesday when the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) issued a proposed rule protecting workers’ rights by eliminating excessive delays in workers’ votes on forming unions to represent them in the workplace. The ruling was a major step forward for the rights of workers given the growing anti-worker and anti-union sentiment which has been spreading across the country.

In brief, the proposed rule would allow workers to quickly vote on whether or not to organize a union: a process which has often taken months and sometimes years, if at all. As a result, private-sector union representation has fallen to an astonishing 6.9%, which is 30 points less than 50 years ago. By removing barriers from the unionizing process, the new rule would enhance workers’ access to fair votes on union representation.

As expected, the board’s proposal was met with sharp criticism from the pro-corporate Right. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Randy Johnson condemned the ruling as "…an attempt to, simply put, bully companies into relinquishing their free speech rights." Such criticism, however, comes as no surprise. We have repeatedly seen pro-corporate conservative interests sacrifice the needs and fundamental rights of hardworking Americans to the interests of maximizing profit-taking at all costs.

By proposing this new rule, the NLRB is not only giving workers a voice but also helping protect and rebuild America’s middle-class. As the national unemployment rate continues to linger around 9%, workers’ benefits are being cut, and millions fear losing their jobs and homes, CEOs and other corporate leaders remain locked in their ivory tower as they continue to rake in obscene profits.

Restoring and strengthening the American middle-class is not only important for individual workers and their families but should also be a national priority as we work to rebalance our economy and make it sounder and stronger than ever.

PFAW

Jose Antonio Vargas and the DREAM Act

Need more evidence for the necessity of the DREAM Act? Check out acclaimed journalist Jose Antonio Vargas’ New York Times piece about his life as an undocumented immigrant.

Vargas, who came into this country at the age of twelve, didn’t even know he was here illegally until he tried to get his driver’s license when he was 16. From that point forward, Vargas worked hard to prove himself in America, a task at which he succeeded in every way imaginable. Yet, despite working hard and becoming a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, Vargas still has no way to legally live in the U.S. other than returning to the Philippines, a country he barely remembers, and sitting through a ten year waiting period before attempting to re-enter the country.

The DREAM Act would give hard-working young people who had no choice about coming into this country a chance to become full, productive citizens in a nation they know and love. Vargas had an amazing support network that allowed him the ability to succeed in spite of all the obstacles, something many do not have. The DREAM Act would remove barriers preventing many other young people in Vargas’ position from going to college, serving in the military, and productively contributing to society.

Vargas’ story is difficult to summarize, and I highly suggest you read the entire piece. But here’s an excerpt explaining why Vargas decided to take the very risky move to come forward with his story.

 

After so many years of trying to be a part of the system, of focusing all my energy on my professional life, I learned that no amount of professional success would solve my problem or ease the sense of loss and displacement I felt. I lied to a friend about why I couldn’t take a weekend trip to Mexico. Another time I concocted an excuse for why I couldn’t go on an all-expenses-paid trip to Switzerland. I have been unwilling, for years, to be in a long-term relationship because I never wanted anyone to get too close and ask too many questions. All the while, Lola’s question was stuck in my head: What will happen if people find out?

. . .

I’m done running. I’m exhausted. I don’t want that life anymore.

 

PFAW

Wal-Mart, Class Action, and Rules Without Remedies

One of the daunting realities of modern life is that we as individuals are confronted by far more powerful corporations. When we want to buy a product, get a job, or seek to hold a large corporation accountable for its misdeeds, our negotiating power is limited by the fact that we are individuals. In contrast, due to its eternal life, its being composed of thousands or even millions of people, and its many state-granted benefits such as limited liability, corporations have consolidated vast resources that would be impossible for any living person attain.

So when that corporation does wrong against individuals – when it engages in a pattern of illegal discrimination, sells defective products, or cheats its customers – the victims often are powerless to hold the corporation accountable unless they, too, can consolidate their resources.

That’s why class actions are so important – and why Big Business keeps asking the Roberts Court to sabotage people’s ability to band together in class actions. Earlier this term, the Corporate Court undercut class actions against consumer fraud in AT&T v. Concepcion. And Monday, it struck out against women employees seeing to hold Wal-Mart accountable for illegal employment discrimination.

Wal-Mart is the nation’s largest private employer. Several women sued the corporate giant on behalf of themselves and similarly situated women around the country - anywhere from 500,000 to 1.5 million employees. To sue as a class, they would have to show that they have claims typical of the whole group.

So that’s what they did. As Justice Ginsburg’s dissent pointed out, the district court that had certified them as a class had identified systems for promoting in-store employees that were sufficiently similar across regions and stores to conclude that the manner in which these systems affect the class raises issues that are common to all class members. The women showed that Wal-Mart has a national corporate climate infused with invidious bias against women. Wal-Mart’s policy is to have personnel decisions made by local managers, all of whom are products of that toxic corporate climate.

But the conservative majority’s 5-4 opinion, authored by Justice Scalia, went out of its way to overlook that obvious commonality, focusing instead on the differences that will inevitably be present when a corporate giant targets so many people. The Roberts Court accepted Wal-Mart's assertion that the women cannot be designated a class because the representative plaintiffs do not have claims typical of the whole group.

What this 5-4 opinion states is that Wal-Mart is so large – and the discrimination it has allegedly engaged in is so great – that its victims cannot unify as one class to hold the company accountable. Individuals or small groups are much less likely to have the resources to seek justice.

Large corporations may be licking their chops at the opportunities the Roberts Court has opened to them to violate the law. They realize that a rule without a remedy is no rule at all.

PFAW