Owner Ship

I was listening to the radio today and there was a news segment on a Michigan insurance company that is testing workers for smoking. If they are found to be positive as smokers, they would be asked to leave the company. Four employees left, all presumably committed smokers.
On the segment, a question arose about the First Amendment. Granted speech and smoking are not the same; however, the assumption is that legal behaviors are legal in the workplace. We’re taught in school and on television and in the movies that you have a right to say and do whatever you want so long as it doesn’t harm others in the process. Of course, there are many shades of gray around the First Amendment and these shades of gray dutifully employ many lawyers and nonprofits. One shade of gray, of course, is whether overweight people, those who skydive, and motorcylists should also be held up to rigorous employment standards.
But what isn’t so gray is that employers don’t have to give a damn about your freedoms. One of the commentators on the radio show said explicitly, and I quote, “You have no right to freedom of speech where your employer is concerned. The First Amendment only concerns your rights that apply to the Government.” I did not know this. The commentator mentioned that last year, a woman in Alabama was fired for driving to work with a Kerry-Edwards bumper sticker.
I feel dumb, confused and bamboozled by my own ignorance. I’m less “mad” at the Government than at the educational system that tells us our freedoms are sacrosanct. Where did the educational system go wrong in telling us that we had the freedom to speak our minds? How did employers become immune to First Amendment law? Where does the “ownership society” take us if it is our employers that own us?

3 thoughts on “Owner Ship”

  1. however, i should qualify that they support armed revolution, which i for one cannot abide. (only violence that i support is that of ecstatic love. so while i attended one of their meetings last year, i haven’t returned.) c

  2. > Where does the “ownership society” take us if it is our employers that own us?
    sorry, it’s me again, but i’m totally inflamed. we really need to collectively boycott walmart. NOW.
    “Wal-Mart has fired these workers not because the store was losing money but because the workers exercised their right to join a union,” Michael J. Fraser, national director of UFCW Canada, said in a written statement. “Once again, Wal-Mart has decided it is above the law and that the only rules that count are their rules.”

  3. Is this the ‘Owner Ship’ thread? C is talking about Administrative initiatives, and A’s talking about the Constitutional ‘subscription’ running out.
    Fortunately, I have an ear to some off-board converstions, but it seems as though you guys are posting at slight cross-purposes.
    All in all, it’s rather sad that ‘Freedom of Speech’ and personal liberties – like smoking – have become debatable issues. Half a generation ago, these issues would have been regarded as silly ‘annoyance’ issues and tossed out, with the employer being marked down for frivolousness.
    But now… Now it would seem that employers like Wal-Mart are being allowed to get away with workplace discrimination, and yesterday’s Civil Rights laws are probably going to be called on the carpet.
    Facsism – it’s the new red.

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