Is This Our Thanks Senator Lieberman? By Dr. Marsha Coleman-Adebayo
Senator Lieberman and his Democrat colleagues should be commended for using their congressional winter recess to conduct a fact-finding mission in the Afghan region and perpetuating the appearance of diplomatic discussions regarding the future relationship the United States will maintain with the region. Senator Lieberman's leadership of his party to conduct a very serious investigation into the Enron debacle should be lauded. The manner in which Enron employees were seemingly taken advantage of and left holding the bag is indeed criminal. However, the over 275,000 plus African-Americans, other ethnic minorities, whistleblowers, and millions of women who suffer racial discrimination and gender bias, while in the employ of the federal government, should not be brushed aside or swept under the rug in order to gain political points with the twenty-four hour a day news viewing public.
Since last year, federal government employees have waited for Senator Lieberman to not just mouth concern but demonstrate party leadership with regard to the myriad of civil rights abuses and injustices suffered by thousands working within the federal government. While he carves out a wider swath of political cloth heading up an Enron investigation, federal employees are stroking out and even dying from the stress of abuse on the job. While he charts the strategy for this bill that will seal for him the reputation of the compassionate and concerned candidate, another woman is humiliated on the job, and another whistleblower has been silenced into submission.
He and other civil rights groups with dubious intentions are attempting to derail this bill, loading it down with "improvement-sounding" language, but any tinkering with this bill, at this time, through the addition of controversial amendments is clearly intended to slow down or kill the bill.
The No Fear Act, S. 201, (Notification of Federal Employees Anti-discrimination and Retaliation Act) has lingered in Chairman Lieberman's Governmental Reform Committee for nearly one year. The No Fear Act sends a simple but strong message that discrimination and retaliation will not be tolerated in the federal workplace. If it is not acceptable for Coca Cola, American Express, Denny's, Georgia Power, and Home Depot to discriminate against employees and they are held accountable, so should the federal government. This bill provides employees throughout the Federal government with additional on-the-job protection from illegal discrimination, retaliation, and other mistreatment by deterring and punishing government misconduct toward them.
On October 2, 2001, despite the national crisis of September 11th - the House of Representatives, in a show of unparalleled bipartisan support for federal government workers - passed the No Fear Bill - 420-0. The Senate version of this bill, introduced by Senator John Warner languishes in committee, with only a single Democrat's signature of support as a cosponsor. Just one!
In November 2000, African-Americans overwhelmingly cast 95% of their vote for the Gore-Lieberman ticket. African Americans joined in the protest for fair elections. Is this our thanks Mr. Lieberman for supporting your ticket? It was not so long ago that Mark Green, the formal mayoral candidate in New York, learned the value of an African American constituency.
Why have inquiries into the status of the No FEAR Act by the No FEAR Coalition, letters from House Judiciary Committee Chairman Sensenbrenner, Rep Jesse Jackson, Jr., the NAACP, SCLC, and hundreds of federal workers been met with only no response, delays in response, procedural excuses, and bureaucratic procedures? Need we remind you of the class actions filed by Black Secret Service agents, FBI agents, USDA employees, and State Department employees? Discrimination in the federal workplace is very real. How long will you disregard a sizeable constituency of minorities and women by choosing to ignore what could be an historic and first civil rights advance of this century.
Senator Lieberman, as you very comfortably sit in the Senate, holding the distinguished mantle of the voice of reason, the calm and equalizing head in the heady days of the conservative maelstrom of the early 90's, your accomplishments domestically and impact on the world stage cannot be denied, but we at home, working for the same federal government that finds it it's duty to police the world, hope that in the near future, you will show the same amount of justice-centered attention to federal government employees, at home. Pass the No FEAR Act out of committee and send it to the floor for a vote.
Dr. Marsha Coleman-Adebayo, Chairperson of the No Fear Coalition can be contacted at Segmarsha@aol.com
Dr. Marsha Coleman-Adebayo
Wednesday, February 27, 2002