Free speech, unfair dismissal and unions (crosspost from Crooked Timber)

(Reposted from Crooked Timber, hence written for a mainly US audience, but referring to the Australian debate.)

I’m seeing a lot of comments from the political right and centre-right worrying about the possibility that workers may be fired for expressing conservative views. For example, here’s David Brooks (paywalled, I think) linking to Andrew Sullivan.

It strikes me that this would be a really good time for people like Brooks and Sullivan to campaign for an end to employment at will, and the introduction of the kind of unfair dismissal laws that protect workers in most democratic countries, but not, for the most part, in the US. Among other things, these laws prohibit firing employees on the basis of their political opinions. Better still, though, would be a resurgence of unionism. Union contracts generally require dismissal for cause, and unionised workers have some actual backup when it comes to a dispute with employers.

There was a case during the recent equal marriage debate in Australia that illustrates both points. A children’s party organizer fired a worker who posted on Facebook opposing equal marriage. This would have been clearly illegal if the worker had been a regular employee but the employer relied on the claim that she was a contractor. Converting workers to independent contract status has been an important element of union-busting strategies in Australia. The resulting legal situation is unclear. It was reported at the time that the Fair Work Ombudsman was investigating the case, but I haven’t been able to find out whether there was an outcome.

Unsurprisingly, religious opponents of equal marriage were very critical of the employer in this case. But they’ve been far more concerned about protecting their own special exemptions as church employers to sack anyone who disagrees with their religious views, than to consider the implications of the quasi-plebiscite, which showed that they are in a shrinking minority.

27 thoughts on “Free speech, unfair dismissal and unions (crosspost from Crooked Timber)

  1. But instead free speech is in America’s supreme court right now as a method for union busting.

  2. John are you deliberately trying to be Trumpish?

    When people are employed by what you call religious organisations they know what said organisations stand for. Indeed it is usually in black and white. Being in a homosexual relationship is as sackable as would be adultery alah Barnaby indeed so would fornication for that matter! In this case either the people are really stupid and do not understand what the ‘values’ are or they deliberately lied when they were employed in the first place.

    You are comparing apples with oranges as usual in this area!

    It would not be a sackable offence in a public school.

  3. @I am and will always be Not Trampis

    Perhaps. Alternately, those organisations could reconsider what they stand for (which is what JQ was suggesting, I think). Things move on. Middle Australia has voted on this. The Christian churches have traditionally wanted to be part of middle Australia rather than a sect.

  4. wow Jim you are wrong on all counts.

    They know what they stand for and anyone wishing to teach would know as well. The ads, the interview et al would all tell people that.
    If you wish to teach in a secular school go to a public school.

    Christian churches have never wanted to be part of middle a read secular Australia.

  5. @I am and will always be Not Trampis
    Hi Trampis, if you have ever been through the job search process you would know that sometimes you have to take what you can get. Just because you are gay, ‘living in sin’, or a divorcee doesnt mean you have a big choice of employers. Biology or how you live your personal life shouldn’t restrict your job choices and therefore your ability to earn a living.

  6. The Brooks/Sullivan et al arguments seem curious, are they promoting the rights of the single individual over the rights of groups of individuals?

    If they were fair dinkum over the rights of the individual they would be promoting legal protection of individuals from actions that are unfair.

  7. I don’t see how discriminating against gay folk is any different from discriminating against an ethnic minority. Christian schools (and any others) that do discriminate against gays obviously cause considerable distress and suicide among their victims, which includes students as well as closeted staff. This is child abuse on par with the pedophilia.

    I am so sick and tired of supernatural sky fairy belief systems being seen as a legitimate excuse for peddling hate and ignorance. It is time to bin this trash.

  8. @Smith
    “Should it be allowed to freely exercise its traditional (and no doubt, sincerely held) views about the blecks in its employment practices?”
    In such extreme cases, let them follow their religion but publicise details of all leading members and any businesses interests so that the rest us can freely choose to have nothing to do with them.
    But let them practice their religion.
    In truth engaging with them is likely to achieve more than anything else. Most publicly overt racists are clearly unbalanced.

  9. Christian churches have never wanted to be part of middle a read secular Australia.

    They don’t get to chose.

  10. @I am and will always be Not Trampis #4
    The logical extension of this is that any organisation can operate discriminatingly in the so called free jobs market as long as they clearly publicise their views, no matter how reprehensible, but tough luck on you if you fall foul of that by supressing the truth about yourself, so you can put bread on the table. It’s your fault apparently! And it makes no difference if that organisation receives massive government subsidies, and dominates 25-30% of the employment market (in secondary education for instance)?
    Thankfully we have laws prohibiting this kind of thing. Well with a couple of exemptions, which means those employment restrictions are not reciprocal on the religiously inclined.

  11. oh dear, NME learn more about the subject before you write.

    ‘Christian ‘churches do not form much of the Christian schools in Australia. I give you the example of kings in Sydney , there are plenty more.
    Smith the Afrikaans churches never accepted biblical values. sorry!

    People who put their children into said schools do for very good reasons. One of which is to instill biblical values.
    Said churches do NOT discriminate against gays.
    They discriminate ( or should ) against any person who has sex out side of marriage ( being between a man and a woman) and do so wantonly without apology as occurred in this case..

    This SHOULD apply more to heterosexuals than to homosexuals who comprise atr best less than 2% of the population and those in ‘relationships even less.

    If you are in a relationship outside what was the traditional view of marriage why would you wish to teach at such a school?

    I see yet again there is no ‘tolerance’ amongst the left of which they claim to hold dearly

  12. @I am and will always be Not Trampis

    According to wikipedia, the Afrikkaans Protestant Xhurch

    “believes the biblical faith to be accurately summarized in the ecumenical confessions (the Apostles’ Creed, the Nicene Creed, the Athanasian Creed), the Belgic Confession, the Heidelberg Catechism and the Canons of Dordt. The church also believes that the Bible not only condones, but actively prescribes, racial segregation. This belief is based mainly on their interpretation of God’s commandment to the Israelites in the Old Testament to separate themselves from the heathen nations.”

    You might think that they are theologically wrong, but ‘freedom of religion’ as the basis for exempting oneself from anti-discrimination laws means that what counts is what they think.

  13. and besides until fairly recently the non believers were fair game to be caught and sold for slaves.

    i’m not just talking about Africa.

    the very word slave derives from Slav.

    the gory that was Rome ?

    you will notice no one in particular is nominated.

    they were all at it.

    (and in the private industry sector, still are.)

  14. Not so long ago, “biblical values” meant animal sacrifices, stonings, slavery and suffering not a which to live.

    Religious schools directly and deliberately send gay students into despair, depression and occasionally suicide. To allow this isn’t tolerance; it is pure evil.

    In Ballarat, where I am from, a conservative estimate is that at least 40 students killed themselves over a couple decades as a result of the Catholic school and church officialdom raping students with impunity.

    My bet is that at least another 40 gay former students also killed themselves because of “biblical teachings”.

    Close these wicked madrassas down.

  15. @I am and will always be Not Trampis #13

    ‘Christian ‘churches do not form much of the Christian schools in Australia.

    I believe I said “organisations”, not “Christian Churches”. But anyway, some more facts:

    Lookup the Catholic Education in Australia on Wikipedia: “…the Catholic education system has grown to be the second biggest sector after government schools in Australia, with more than 650,000 students and around 21 per cent of all secondary school enrollments.” That’s just one denomination. Look up the others yourself if you like. Or perhaps you are mounting the Ellis Defense.

    Archbishop of Melbourne Denis Hart: “I would be very emphatic that our schools, our parishes exist to teach a Catholic view of marriage,” he said. “Any words or actions which work contrary to that would be viewed very seriously.” … “People have to see in words and in example that our teaching of marriage is underlined” And Archbishop Timothy Costelloe has said similar. Hard to read this is any other way than threatening and discriminatory on the basis of sexual orientation, or perhaps that’s OK as only 2% of the population are impacted (it’s actually somewhat higher than that). But they are only among the most senior Catholics in the country (the other being in the dock at the moment) so of course they don’t represent the positions of the church more generally, or exert great influence on the school policies in their see. Do they?

    Nevertheless you seem to be maintaining an argument that it’s OK to discriminate because that’s what their customers want (which is a doubtful claim in itself) indirectly on the basis of marital status – which is not legal except for some exempted organisations.

    Many of us work in institutions we’d rather not. Why? Because we have mortgages to pay, kids to feed, retirement funds to scrape together. We don’t all have the luxury of being choosy.

    It is however true, I’m very intolerant …of intolerance.

  16. @I am and will always be Not Trampis
    It is great you have outed yourself Not Trampis. If we went back in time i worry you may have burnt a person i know as “they know what said organisations stand for”. Witches were burnt, the name faggot is a bundle of sticks are so weren’t even worth burning at the stake.
    I didn’t know the meaning of your name trampis and although i can find trampis as a name in the top 3 baby name sites none of them have a meaning nor origin.
    Luckily urban dictionary to the rescue. I am glad your handle is “i am and will alway be Not Trampis” as Trampis is defined as and i quote ” Trampis… An extremely fat and ugly homosexual with extreme body odor and a micro penis” i am sure you would not want trampis’ teaching at ‘your’ school.
    Sincere apologies to all for lowering the tone with urbane-ities.
    If you were able to seperate homosexual from pedophile we may be able to engage in 21st century dialouge..

  17. I see yet again there is no ‘tolerance’ amongst the left of which they claim to hold dearly

    Two questions:
    What, exactly and precisely, do you want me to tolerate?
    What, exactly and precisely, would this tolerance consist of?

  18. I can see this site is now aping Catallaxy pretty well. Some comments are the mirror image of what would be written over there.
    john appears to be copying Sinclair as well.

    Let us get back to to his original statement. He claimed the lady who was sacked as a contractor for saying on her facebook page it was all right to vote no in the postal survey. ( Not even close to a quasi- plebiscite by the way. NO ballot boxes for a start).

    He then equated this to the story in WA of a Teacher who was sacked when after the result then disclosed he was in a homosexual relationship.
    I then showed this to be complete cobblers.
    The ad had what was expected in it. The interview too. It is there on their website.
    He lied. Why a homosexual in a relationship wanted to teach at such a school when he clearly did not agree with many of its values is something that perhaps John might want to talk about.
    He would not have had a problem at other schools particularly public schools.

    A couple of other things. A person who quotes Wikipedia in saying a denominational upholds several ‘biblical’ values t but then says they believe in racial discrimination has clearly not read the bible. It is nonsensical.

    I note again. Being homosexual is not the problem It is being in a relationship. It is no different to a heterosexual saying he or she is engaged in adultery or fornication publicly.
    In both these cases the person should be sacked as well.

  19. The SA Premier Jay Weatherill says he will make wage theft a crime a crime, punishable by up to 15 year’s jail, if the ALP is re-elected. This makes sense to me. Why should a worker who steals $50,0000 from an employer face jail time while the employer can get away with it unless the employee is prepared to spend tens of thousands of dollars and sometimes two or more years fighting it out in the civil courts?

  20. Trampis, Christian schools take public money. I don’t want my tax dollars used to spread hate.

    Even if Christian schools did not take public money, they do direct harm to students who are LGBTI+ and foment intolerance and hatred of same. This is an unconscionable breach of the rights of the child.

    In any event, simply as a matter of social cohesion, I would like to see private schools abolished. I find it odd that the right-wingers who complain about ethnic ghettos support religious and class based private school ghettos.

  21. It’s fairly obvious that Christian schools practice “Christian beliefs and adherence to religious codes” and that these beliefs include intolerance and discrimination.

  22. It has to be said that the game of exclusivity played by private schools has paid off very well, with both state and federal govts pouring disproportionate amounts of money into these highly principled institutions of education.

    The well-to-do have done well out of the ordinary taxpayer.

  23. @I am and will always be Not Trampis

    “A person who quotes Wikipedia in saying a denominational upholds several ‘biblical’ values t but then says they believe in racial discrimination has clearly not read the bible. It is nonsensical.”

    Maybe, but they beg to differ, and their right to religious freedom is the same as yours, no more and no less.

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