Workers' political rights under attack
LAST MONTH THE San Francisco Chronicle fired technology columnist Henry
Norr. His offense? Taking a day off to join thousands of other
Americans in protesting the Bush Administration's illegal, immoral and
unnecessary attack on Iraq.
Norr's action was not against Chronicle rules at the time - the paper's
official ethics policy states that "The Chronicle does not forbid
employees from engaging in political activities." And the California
State Labor Code unambiguously bars any attempt on the part of
management to control workers' outside political activity: according to
section 1101 of the code (a provision originally enacted by the
legislature to protect supporters of Upton Sinclair's End Poverty in
No employer shall make, adopt, or enforce any rule,
regulation, or policy:
(a) Forbidding or preventing employees from engaging or
participating in politics ..
(b) Controlling or directing, or tending to control or direct the
political activities or affiliations of employees.
But the management of the Hearst-owned Chronicle, ignoring both its own
rules and the law, first suspended Norr without pay, then fired him.
And after the fact management unilaterally modified the ethics policy
to bar newsroom employees from participating in war-related
These moves were not just retaliation against one individual - they add
up to a transparent attempt to intimidate other Chronicle employees
from exercising rights guaranteed by the Constitution and state law.
They're part of a growing trend to impose conformity, in the name of
"objectivity," throughout the corporate-controlled media.
The threat isn't limited to the media, either. By the same logic the
Chronicle used to justify Norr's firing, any business could put limits
on the outside political activity of employees - McDonald's, say, could
bar workers from participating in antiwar rallies lest "patriotic"
customers switch to Burger King.
If the bosses can make rules like that, what's left of democracy?
If you disapprove of Norr's firing, make your voice heard - complain to
firstname.lastname@example.org, Chronicle Editor Phil Bronstein
(email@example.com), and Managing Editor Robert Rosenthal
For more information on the Norr case, see his statement about his
firing (www.sfbg.com/wartime/norr.html), his interview with Democracy
Now host Amy Goodman (www.democracynow.org/norr.htm) and stories in the
San Francisco Bay Guardian (sfbg.com/37/29/news_norr.html and
www.sfbg.com/37/31/news_norr.html) and the San Francisco Examiner
(www.examiner.com/news/default.jsp?story=n.norr.0410w). Or write
directly to Norr at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The pertinent sections of the California State Labor Code are at