Thursday, September 27, 2007

Bloomberg and the EEOC

A new item today deserves mention for those interested in New York and national politics. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, established forty three years ago through the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the most important Civil Rights Act of the 20th century, has filed a gender discrimination suit against Bloomberg L.P., the "supercorporation" (a term some scholars use today what used to be called monopolies or trusts) founded by billionaire New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

The suit accuses the company, which has 9,000 employees, of discriminating against pregnant women by " decreasing their pay, demoting them, diminishing their job opportunities, and excluding them from employment opportunities" (that is pretty heavy discrimination). When one realizes that the EEOC under the Bush administration has usually been more interested in protecting the rights of firms accused of discrimination than advancing suits, this even becomes more interesting. Bloomberg's comment that "you will have to talk to Bloomberg L.P....I haven't worked there, as you know, in an awful long time" appears a bit disingenuous, particularly given press reports that he controls seventy percent of the firm's stock.

Bloomberg formally "left" the Republican party to explore possibilities of an "independent" run for the presidency ala H. Ross Perot (like Perot, he could afford to finance his own campaign). Previously, he "left" the Democrats to spend his money to elect himself Mayor as a Republican when Guiliani left office.

While it is possible that the suit might have some Bush administration political agenda behind it, (doing some political damage to Bloomberg so he won't take away votes from a Republican presidential candidiae in 2008) it does highlight the absence of effective protection for female workers both under labor law and really civil rights law in the U.S. The suit claims that women who are pregnant or had just become mothers were replaced by males in less senior position, removed from participation in managerial meetings and subject to stereotyping about their abilities to do their jobs because of their family and caregiver responsibilities." Women workers in the U.S. don't have paid parental leave under law. While these workers were not unionized the "human resources" department of the firm did nothing about their complaints.

Although male blue collar workers are often stereotyped as representing the most important bastion of male chauvinism in the U.S. as part of a larger anti-working class bias which permeates mass media, it has been my observation that individuals in the very high paying "non-professional" professions, that it, "financial services" (selling stocks and bonds, etc) middle and upper corporate management, advertising and public relations, foster a culture of male chauvinism to limit the advance of women into positions which are both very lucrative and tenuous. In the capitalist jungle, there is a perpetual war of all against all and male chauvinism is just another way to get a competitive advantage.

Of course, new and expanded Civil Rights legislation and the passage of an Equal Rights Constitutional Amendment, along with parental leave legislation that would put the U.S. at near the top of the developed nations instead of at the bottom, as it is today, offer solutions to the problem that the suit against Bloomberg L.P.

Removing Bloomberg from office and replacing him him with a Mayor who would undertake progressive policies in regard to housing, public transportation,and the outrageously high New York City cost of living that his and a number of his predecessors pro business, pro landlord policies have produced would go a long way to addressing the problems of the people of New York City.

Norman Markovitz

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