Dear Senator Sessions,
I am stunned and appalled at your vote against SA 2588 to H.R. 3326, the 2010 Defense Appropriation Act. The amendment would prevent government contractors or subcontractors from receiving federal funds if they require their employees to submit to arbitration if they are sexually assaulted while on the job by other employees. In short: your vote against this measure is a vote for companies escaping culpability in rape cases. Shame on you.
This amendment was driven in part by Jamie Leigh Jones’s experiences. As a 21-year-old working for KBR/Halliburton in Iran, she claims to have been gang raped after sipping a drugged drink. Guards following KBR orders confined her to a shipping container; she was freed only after she managed to call her father, who involved Texas Representative Ted Poe. Hers was one of several rapes involving KBR personnel. KBR claims none of the raped women can sue KBR due to arbitration clauses in their contract. Even worse, KBR has continually delayed arbitration in these cases, preventing due process.
In your speech on the Senate floor, you claimed that arbitration is a fair substitute for a court case, and that it can be better and less expensive for employees. Consumer Reports, a non-partisan advocate for individuals, vehemently disagrees. As Consumer Reports points out, arbitration involves a third party selected by the corporation. No public record is kept. There is no accountability; there is no transparency. It substitutes private corporate decisions for public decisions by a jury of peers, and subverts the justice system that you, as a former U.S. Attorney, once swore to uphold.
Furthermore, you said that the Congress should not be involved in writing or re-writing contracts. This is not a re-write of contracts; this is a statement of who the U.S. Government will do business with. The Congress has the power of the checkbook, and can decide where that money goes and why. The amendment did not specify how contracts should be written; it specified that contracts should not be let to companies hiding from their employees behind the shield of arbitration to prevent rape victims from suing them. If this is untenable, then so is the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which has prevented the government from doing business with companies that discriminate on the basis of race or gender.
On your website, you state that, like me, you are a Christian. Christ’s concern was for the downtrodden. He broke bread with the tax collectors and the prostitutes, not the religious leaders and the politically powerful. On this issue you have sided with the corporation over the individual, with Halliburton over Jamie Leigh Jones.
In your remarks during Judge Sotomayor’s confirmation hearings, you stated that empathy was a bad thing for a judge to have. Based on your vote on this matter, I can only assume that you think empathy is a terrible thing for a Senator to have as well.
I have a two-year-old daughter. Because of your vote, I cannot imagine her working for the federal government as a contractor. Your vote signals that you accept corporations covering up rapes as a matter of course. You have two daughters; I am appalled that you are comfortable with this behavior, and can only hope that you would feel differently if it were your daughters in this situation.
As a father and as a Christian, I can only say again: you should be ashamed of your vote. It betrays the very values you claim to hold.
This turned into a long letter, and was far more reasoned than I would naturally have been. My first reaction was to write a letter that read, in its entirety, “Senator Sessions: Fuck you.” That a man who has two daughters could sleep comfortably at night having said, “Hey, you got raped and your employer tried to cover it up, but that’s okay” enrages me beyond belief. With this vote, Sessions (and his compatriot Senator Shelby) have shown that they are hollow men incapable of empathizing with women.