Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Pulse of the Planet #9

CounterPunch's "Pulse of the Planet" series kicks off 2009 with Barbara Rose Johnston's article, "Water Culture Wars." The series was initially derived from conference papers delivered at the "Pulse of the Planet" panel during AAA's 2008 annual meeting in San Francisco.

Johnston describes the controversial events that transpired at the 5th World Water Forum in Istanbul, Turkey and the recommendations that were drawn from the "water and cultural diversity" sessions. In these sessions, Johnston and other presenters stressed that "Water is a fundamental human right and a core element that sustains cultural ways of life and the environments on which we all depend." She also sheds light on how water development projects often violate human rights and lead to the displacement and impoverishment of millions, particularly ethnic minorities and indigenous peoples.

Prior Pulse of the Planet Articles:
"Ecological Crisis and Eco-Villages in China" ~ Shannon May
"How Dow Chemical Defies Homeland Security and Risks Another 9/11" ~ Brian McKenna
"The Inequities of Climate Change and the Small Island Experience" ~ Holly Barker
"What the Next President Must Do to Save FEMA" ~ Gregory V. Button
"The Clean, Green Nuclear Machine?" ~ Barbara Rose Johnston
"Carbon Offsets: More Harm Than Good?" ~ Melissa Checker
"The Human Right to Eat" ~ Joan P. Mencher
"Dam Legacies, Damned Futures" ~ Barbara Rose Johnston

Friends of the CoE Launched

The Friends of the Committee on Ethics was formally launched this month. This newly established ad hoc consultative body will provide expertise and informal consultation to the membership of the AAA about ethical quandaries they may have encountered in both research and applied settings. Comprised of former chairs of the Committee on Ethics, the Friends will bring their experience and multiple perspectives to issues that merit ethical consideration. Questions for the Friends should be submitted to the Chair of the Committee on Ethics. Additional information is available on our website.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Blow to Employee Free Choice Act

The Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) of 2009 (H.R. 1409 / S. 560) suffered a critical blow this week. On Tuesday, Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA) announced that he would not support the bill. As the only Republican to vote for the bill in 2007, Specter's vote could have been the deciding factor should the bill reach the Senate floor this year. Specter has been under enormous pressure from Republicans after voting in favor of President Obama's $800 million economic stimulus bill, but his opposition to the EFCA is likely to lose him his AFL-CIO endorsement for the midterm elections.

Politico reported that Specter's opposition has given Democrats concerned about making an enemy of Big Business an excuse to oppose the bill unless modifications are made. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) is not giving up hope and said that other Republicans may be willing to support the bill. The situation looks grim at the moment, and the EFCA may not move forward until after the 2010 midterm elections.

The EFCA is such a highly-contested piece of legislation because of its impact on the way workers can organize. The bill amends the National Labor Relations Act in the following ways:

Streamlines Union Certification
Employees will choose how to organize through “majority sign-up” procedure. Workers may now bypass the union election process if the majority of employees sign union authorization cards (i.e. card check). Workers will, however, still have the option to hold elections and secret ballots should 30% opt for this route.

Facilitates Collective Bargaining Agreements
Parties will meet within 10 days of receiving a written request to establish a union, and will have 90 days to sign a collective bargaining agreement. A federal arbitrator will help mediate the agreement should the parties fail to establish a contract after 90 days. If federal mediation does not result in an agreement then a federal arbitration panel shall create a two-year contract that both sides must accept.

Strengthens Enforcement
An employer that discriminates against an employee while (s)he is seeking union representation shall be subject to a fine of up to $20,000 per violation. The employee will also receive three times in back pay should they be illegally dismissed in relation to union activity.

In 2007, the AAA's Committee on Public Policy (CoPP) produced a policy brief [pdf] highlighting anthropological research on labor issues relevant to the EFCA. CoPP wrote, "Anthropology provides sound evidence for the premises of The Employee Free Choice Act, namely that current organizing processes do not allow employees to express their desire to join unions because: 1) there are insufficient disincentives to managerial lawbreaking in its resistance to unions; and 2) management uses tactics of intimidation and fear to coerce workers to vote against unions."

Thursday, March 26, 2009

NEH Action Alert

The Co-Chairs of the Congressional Humanities Caucus, Rep. David Price (D-NC) and Rep. Thomas Petri (R-WI), have prepared a Dear Colleague letter in support of $230 million for the National Endowment for the Humanities in fiscal year 2010. The letter is currently circulating in the House of Representatives to garner additional co-signers. Please call your member of Congress and ask him/her to show their support for the humanities by signing the letter before it is submitted on April 1, 2009 to Chairman Norm Dicks (D-WA) and Ranking Member Michael Simpson (R-ID) of the Interior, Environment, & Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee. A list of members who have already agreed to sign the letter is provided below.

Please contact your Representative today by calling the Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121. Visit http://www.house.gov/ to use your zip code to identify your Member of Congress.

A copy of the Price/Petri letter is online at http://www.nhalliance.org/bm~doc/fy10neh_dc_signed90.pdf [pdf].

I am calling to ask that Representative X sign on to a Dear Colleague letter currently circulating in the House of Representatives by the Co-Chairs of the Congressional Humanities Caucus, Rep. David Price (D-NC) and Rep. Thomas Petri (R-WI). The letter requests $230 million for the National Endowment for the Humanities in fiscal year 2010, an increase of approximately $75 million over the fiscal year 2009 enacted level. This increase is necessary to address essential unmet needs in humanities education and research. Support is needed to introduce or expand programs in areas such as international education and global society perspectives, digital humanities projects, graduate education, and data collection and dissemination on the state of the humanities.

For more information or to sign-on to the letter, House staff should contact Kate Roetzer with Rep. David Price at 202-225-1784 (Democrats) or Lindsay Punzenberger with Rep. Thomas Petri at 202-225-5406 (Republicans). The deadline to sign the letter is one week from today, Wednesday, April 1.

Shelley Berkley (D-NV/1), Howard Berman (D-CA/28), Mike Capuano (D-MA/8), John Conyers (D-MI/14), Bill Delahunt (D-MA/10), John Dingell (D-MI/15), Jim Gerlach (R-PA/6), Raul Grijalva (D-AZ/7), Rush Holt (D-NJ/12), Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX/30), Jim Langevin (D-RI/2), John Lewis (D-GA/5), Dave Loebsack (D-ID/2), Carolyn Maloney (D-NY/14), Jim McDermott (D-WA/7), Jim McGovern (D-MA/3), Jerry McNerney (D-CA/11), Michael Michaud (D-ME/2), Dennis Moore (D-KS/3), Jerrold Nadler (D-NY/8), Nick Rahall (D-WV/3), Bobby Rush (D-IL/1), Mike Thompson (D-CA/1), Robert Wexler (D-FL/19), David Wu (D-OR/1), John Yarmouth (D-KY/3)

Thursday, March 19, 2009

AAA Joins Call to End “Ideological Exclusion”

AAA is one of several academic, free-speech, and civil-rights organizations to sign a letter to top officials in the Obama administration urging them to end the federal government’s practice of denying visas to foreign intellectuals based on ideology.
The letter–addressed to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., and Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano–argues that the State and Homeland Security Departments have compromised U.S. interests by barring dozens of prominent scholars, artists, writers, and activists over the past eight years based on their ideas, political views, and associations. The full text of the letter to Attorney General Holder and Secretaries Clinton and Napolitano is available online at: http://www.aclu.org/images/general/asset_upload_file609_39050.pdf [pdf]

A petition for individuals to sign has also been made available at https://secure.aclu.org/site/SPageServer?pagename=Nat_Petition_Ideological_Exclusion. Please circulate the petition to anyone you think might be interested.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Employing Anthropologists

Genevieve Bell, Director of User Experience in Intel's Digital Home Group, helps Intel account for the cultural nuances in countries they provide services to, CNN reported. She is one of a rising number of anthropologists who are developing marketing strategies, studying consumer practices, and researching workplace environments for technology companies. Bell has been working for Intel since 1998, proving that anthropologists, and social scientists in general, have been instrumental in developing marketing strategies for many fortune 500 companies. Anthropologists are likely to be enlisted by a growing number of corporations as digital networks and cultures become increasingly prominent and influential in business and politics. How do you think this will affect the discipline and conduct of fieldwork?

~Author: Leo Napper, AAA intern

Fighting for Academic Freedom

The Chronicle recently reported on the limits of academic freedom for public university professors. Kevin J. Renken, an associate professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Wisconsin, found this out the hard way. He believed that administrators at the university were mishandling a National Science Foundation grant awarded to him and many of his colleagues. Upon bringing this to light, the university reduced his pay and returned the grant. Outraged at the university’s actions, he sued them alleging illegal retaliation.

Believing that his complaints fell under free speech, he was floored when the three-judge panel of the Seventh Circuit Court ruled that he was not speaking in a capacity that protected him from such retaliatory action. The court ruled that "In order for a public employee to raise a successful First Amendment claim, he must have spoken in his capacity as a private citizen and not as an employee."

In response to this news, the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) has established a panel of First Amendment scholars to find new avenues to protect academic freedoms at public institutions. The AAUP has also issued a 1940 Statement of Principles on Academic Freddom and Tenure to which the AAA, and over 200 other scholarly and education organizations, has endorsed. However, some people agree with the court’s ruling. Ada Meloy of the American Council on Education says “the cases, to date, have not created any apparent injustices. ... Public-college employees do enjoy First Amendment rights, but that should not turn every case of employee discipline or discharge into a retaliation lawsuit."

Academic freedoms are enjoyed by academics nationwide, but threats arise every year that endanger these freedoms. Was the University of Wisconsin right to take such action against Professor Renken? Did the courts have the right idea with their ruling on the case? What precautions have you taken to avoid such situations when critiquing university policies or actions?

~Author: Leo Napper, AAA intern