Washingtons Jim Crow Legislators

By Norman E. Kjono, January 18, 2007

 Wikipedia, January 18, 2007

"The Jim Crow Laws were state and local laws enacted in the Southern and Border States of the United States and enforced between 1876 and 1965. They gave African Americans "separate but equal" status. In reality, this led to treatment and accomodations that were almost always inferior to those provided to white Americans. The laws referred to things as detailed as whether they could dine in parks. The "Jim Crow period" or the "Jim Crow era" refers to the time during which this practice occurred. The most important laws required that public schools, public places and public transportation, like trains and buses, have separate facilities for whites and blacks. (These Jim Crow Laws were separate from the 1800-1866 Black Codes, which had restricted the civil rights and civil liberties of African Americans.) State-sponsored school segregation was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in 1954 in Brown v. Board of Education. All other Jim Crow laws were repealed by the Civil Rights Act of 1964." 

The following link is to a new bill filed in the Washington legislature: Washington HB 1154   

According to the Washington legislature Web site, as of Thursday, January 18, 2007 11:13 AM the bill information is:

Sponsors: Representatives Morrell, Conway, Grant, Sells, Blake, Moeller, Eickmeyer, Appleton, Kenney, Flannigan, Hudgins, Williams, Ormsby, Simpson  

 

2007 REGULAR SESSION  Jan 11 First reading, referred to Commerce & Labor. (View Original Bill)  Jan 26 Scheduled for public hearing in the House Committee on Commerce & Labor at 1:30 PM in anticipation of other legislative action.

One can read the two-page bill by scrolling down to "Original Bill" prompt. Careful reading from begin to end is strongly recommended.

WOW! Apparently, we should be impressed that members of the Democrat-controlled Washington legislature have sponsored a bill that begins:

"It is unlawful for an employer to hire or to discharge an individual, or otherwise disadvantage an individual with respect to compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment because the individual engages in the consumption of lawful tobacco products off the premises of the employer during nonworking hours . . ."  

Then we get to the requirements for the bill applying to an individual and the exemptions . . . Turns out the bill actually authorizes most employers to engage in overt employment discrimination against persons who use tobacco products by making it not unlawful for exempt employers to refuse to hire, to terminate or to otherwise discriminate against persons who use lawful tobacco products. The bill also sets so many conditions for applicability to an individual case a myriad of statutory excuses can be applied by employers to directly engage in employment discrimination against persons who use lawful tobacco products. To my knowledge, this is the first instance of state legislation explicitly authorizing discrimination since Jim Crow days.  

Jim Crow would proudly support this special-interest tobacco control bill. Just like Jim Crow, tobacco control has mandated agendas where smokers cannot use parks, too. Just like Jim Crow, smokers would have "separate but equal" employment rights. Just like sponsors of Jim Crow legislation, the above fourteen Democrats who sponsored HB 1154 will try to sell this bill to the public as "protecting" the "Target's" rights, when in fact it explicitly authorizes state-sanctioned discrimination against them. And, just like Carpet Baggers, advocates from the American Cancer Society, the American Lung Association, hospital groups and other nonprofit profit organizations that are exempt from this bill-and therefore explicitly authorized to engage in overt employment discrimination against persons who use lawful tobacco products-will strongly support the bill; presumably some will do so at the public hearing on this bill scheduled for January 26, 2007.    

Just like Jim Crow, smokers now have "separate but equal" housing, compliments of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and Seattle's tobacco czar, Roger Valdez, too.  "Separate," meaning segregated away from nonsmokers; "equal" housing being a homeless shelter for Seattle's low-income, elderly HUD apartment residents who use lawful tobacco products. My commentary about housing discrimination in Seattle, "Politics, Housing and Tobacco Control," was published January 17, 2007. That work includes excerpts from news articles about discriminatory costs for medical insurance and interference in parental custody rights as well. Persons who smoke are declared to be state-sanctioned second class Conditional Citizens by the Washington bill's Democrat sponsors.  

The preceding should be no be surprise under the leadership of Washington's Democrat Governor, Christine O. Gregoire. Ms. Gregoire's tacit support of Jim Crow exclusionary practices dates back to her college days in the 1960s, when she enforced sorority rules that excluded young women of color from membership.  From the Seattle Times, August 29, 2004, "We Want Straight Story," by Nicole Brodeur, staff columnist:  

"When you're running for the highest office in the state, and it becomes known that, while in college, you headed a sorority that barred blacks, the last thing you should do is pin the mess on your African-American opponent and the NAACP. But that's just what Attorney General Christine Gregoire did last week. It was stunning to see this careful politician accuse King County Executive Ron Sims, her rival in the Democratic primary, of being in cahoots with black leaders to take her down. Sims denies planting the story. I've never run for office, but I have a sense of what I would do if a questionable part of my past came to haunt my political future . . ."

 

Governor Gregoire projected blame for her unseemly sorority leadership on her primary race opponent; denied that her conduct was racist; claimed that she was working from within the sorority to change its racist policies; then went on to win the Governors seat in 2004 by 129 votes-the smallest margin in election history-in the general election. Which is the short story about an election that may prove to also set a record for the most costly Governor's administration in terms of state fiscal responsibility and civil rights in political history.

 

Not only is such overt discrimination the hallmark of one who rises to President of her sorority on the backs of minorities applicants but it is also consistent with Governor Gregoire's history with tobacco control. In November 1998 she inked, and was the principal negotiator for the 1998 Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement (MSA) that added 45 cents per pack in costs for cigarette consumers to finance that $206 billion boondoggle; the same month nearly a decade ago then-Attorney General Gregoire's tobacco control task force recommended that state policy be coordinated with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation; since then Ms. Gregoire has participated in the senior leadership of the MSA's Legacy Foundation; in 2003 then-Attorney General Gregoire supported in writing the smoking ban in Pierce County that was later overturned by our state superior, appeals and supreme courts as unlawful; and in 2005 Governor Gregoire requested 80 cents per pack new taxes on cigarettes, in response the legislature increased cigarette taxes by 60 cents per pack and decreased Other Tobacco Taxes on cigars.

 

Then again, the tobacco settlement hasn't worked out as well for State of Washington as Ms. Gregoire crowed about in 1998. See, for example, the below excerpt from an article published last year in the Wall Street Journal:

 

The Wall Street Journal, March 8, 2006
"Big Tobacco Seeks $1.2 Billion Cut
In Payments to States"
By Vanessa O'Connell 

"State governments, addicted to billions in revenue from the tobacco industry, have begun to worry that they will have to cut back. Forty-six states are expecting a total of $6.5 billion this spring, the latest in a series of annual payments stemming from the 1998 Master Settlement Agreement with major tobacco companies. But Altria Group Inc.'s Philip Morris USA and others say they expect to withhold $1.2 billion and are raising the possibility that they will seek similar cuts in years to come."

 

 MSA payments to states were originally scheduled to be $8 billion per year for 2006-2007, but have been reduced to $6.5 billion, with Big Tobacco seeking $1.2 billion in further cuts. But consumers still pay the 45 cents per pack cost to Big Tobacco, thereby adding to Philip Morris profits. Meanwhile, Washington taxpayers-including nonsmokers-come up $1.5 billion short and counting down from there for another $1.2 billion in MSA payments received.

 

But nonprofit organizations such as the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (the source of $446 million plus in grants to tobacco control advocates and among the top five institutional shareholders of NicoDerm CQ manufacturer Johnson & Johnson), the American Cancer Society (nationwide manager of the George H.W. Bush administration's anti-tobacco Project ASSIST), and the American Lung Association (supporter of I-773 60 cents per pack new cigarette taxes in 2001) are given statutory exemptions and protection for employment discrimination against persons who use lawful tobacco products.

 

It's a particularly vicious cycle of business as usual for Washington's Democrat controlled legislature: consumers and taxpayers get nailed and the pot is sweetened for multi-billion-dollar special-interests.

 

The only material difference between HB 1154 and Governor Gregoire's past sorority leadership is the "Target" group selected for discrimination and the form of discrimination employed: during the 1960s Gregoire excluded women of color from sorority based on policy that she supported, in 2007 she would exclude persons who use tobacco products for employment based on policy that she has aggressively supported for the past decade. Should a companion Senate bill be sponsored and the bills pass on Democrat votes, Governor Gregoire will confirm her Jim Crow tendencies dating back no 40 years when she signs the reconciled bill into state law. Whether or not the bill is enacted, fourteen Washington Democrat legislators have already declared their crowing position by allowing their names to be attached to the house bill.

 

The message for all tobacco consumers-including cigar smokers-from this Democrat legislature is blunt: your job is at risk because of your lawful choice about which legal products you choose to consume.

 

Stand idle, do nothing, and fail to connect to the links for the bills sponsors to send them a message, at peril of your livelihood.

 

We'll be following this embarrassing and tawdry proof that Jim Crow still lives in the hearts and minds of some legislators.

 

Norman E. Kjono


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