Protecting our civil liberties and civil rights is the foundation of our democracy. If we lose the right to protest or freely assemble, or if we permit discrimination, then we have forfeited one of the bedrock principles upon which this great nation was founded. Congressman Kucinich will oppose any rollback of our liberties in the name of "security." As President Franklin D. Roosevelt said so eloquently, "the only thing we have to fear is fear itself." We cannot allow fear to erode our democracy. Congressman Kucinich is dedicated to protecting the rights of all citizens and fighting against efforts to infringe on those rights.
Congressman Kucinich is a leading Congressional advocate for the repeal of the death penalty. In September 2008, Congressman Kucinich reintroduced the Federal Death Penalty Abolition Act with eighteen original cosponsors. Although Congressman Kucinich believes that violent offenders should be severely punished and prevented from committing future crimes, he argues the death penalty does not deter violent crime, allows innocent people to be executed, marginalizes the United States in the fight for human rights in the international community, and is morally indefensible. Additionally, research shows that public opinion of the death penalty continues to decline. Imposition of the death penalty has also been found to be racially and economically biased.
The Federal Death Penalty Abolition Act is the companion legislation to death penalty abolition legislation introduced in the United States Senate by Senator Russell Feingold of Wisconsin. Congressman Kucinich is committed to working with his colleagues to end the use of the death penalty as well as developing a criminal justice system that is fair, just, and that rehabilitates incarcerated individuals.
Return of the Chief: Unnamed Sculpture is Finally Identified
Noting that a prominently placed sculpture of a Native American in the Capitol Building seemed to be the only unidentified sculpture among thousands, Congressman Kucinich brought the matter to the attention of the Acting Architect of the Capitol, Stephen Ayers. In response to his inquiry, Congressman Kucinich was informed that the sculpture has been identified as Chief Beeshekee (Chief Buffalo) of the Chippewa Native American Tribe, and that a nameplate for the Chief is being prepared.
The bronze sculpture is located on the second floor of the West Stairways of the House wing of the U.S. Capitol building, where it is passed by thousands of people every day including hundreds of Members of Congress.
For years, the Chief had not been given the common courtesy of identification. Congressman Kucinich looked at the Chief long enough to ask the question ‘why isn’t he named?’ If we are serious about addressing historical injustices against Native Americans, we can certainly assure Chief Beeshekee recognition.
“Born about 1759, Buffalo (Beeshekee) was a leader of the La Pointe band of Ojibwa during a century of dramatic cultural change… As a senior statesman, his role among his people was an important one. Buffalo traveled to Washington in February of 1855 together with his colleague, Flat Mouth, and a delegation of fourteen Native American leaders from Wisconsin and Minnesota... At the time of the trip and sittings for this (sculpture), Buffalo was ninety-six years of age; he died later the same year in Wisconsin and is buried at his birthplace on Madelaine Island in Lake Superior,” states the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs website.
“During the visit, Beeshekee sat for the modeling of his portrait by Francis Vincenti, a stonecutter for the Capitol Extension. Vincenti most likely carved the portrait in marble, which is displayed in the east corridor of the third floor of the Senate wing. The (sculpture) is a version cast in bronze three years later by Joseph Lassalle who, between 1857 and 1859, was foreman of the foundry of Capitol,” Acting Architect of the Capitol Stephen Ayers informed Kucinich.
In April of 2003, Congressman Kucinich co-signed a “friend of the court” brief to the United States Supreme Court on behalf of the University of Michigan and its use of affirmative action in its undergraduate and law school admissions policies. In June of 2003 the Supreme Court upheld the use of affirmative action policies in college and graduate admissions.
Congressman Kucinich believes that America’s diversity is its strength, and it is absolutely critical that the government support programs that enhance opportunities for those who have been historically left behind. As a result, Congressman Kucinich has argued for the importance of preserving affirmative action initiatives at all levels of our society.Protecting the Rights of Native Americans
On June 16th 2005, Congressman Kucinich sent a letter with 62 signatures from Members of Congress to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission objecting to the Private Fuel Storage (PFS) nuclear waste dump on land sacred to the Skull Valley band of Goshutes. This proposal is unjust, extremely dangerous, and unnecessary. The history of exploitation and racism carried out towards Native Americans by the U.S. government is well documented and we must not relive it. The proposal is also safety risk to all Americans along the transportation routes to the proposed facility. Transporting casks cross-country creates the possibility of a potentially catastrophic radioactivity release due to an accident.Medical Marijuana
Congressman Kucinich has consistently voted in favor and spoke in support of an amendment to the Commerce-Justice-State Appropriations bill that has sought to allow states to enact their own laws with respect to the distribution of medical marijuana.
Congressman Kucinich believes that states that vote to enact initiatives to allow doctors to prescribe marijuana for medicinal purposes should be free to carry out those laws without federal intervention. Instead, the federal government has sought to override such state statutes, viewing the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes in the same light as the use of heroin or cocaine. In 2002, federal agents raided the Wo/Men’s Alliance for Medical Marijuana (WAMM), an organization that under California state law legally dispensed marijuana to patients whose doctors had recommended it for pain and suffering. Eighty-five percent of WAMM’s 225 members were terminally ill with cancer or AIDS.
Nike v. Kasky
Congressman Kucinich spearheaded the Congressional effort to oppose the Nike Corporation’s attempt to grant corporations unprecedented leverage to make false statements to consumers with legal impunity. In sponsoring an amicus or “friend of the Court” brief in the Supreme Court case, Nike vs. Kasky, Congressman Kucinich urged the Court to dismiss Nike’s claims that the First Amendment protects corporations from false advertising lawsuits, even for instances in which the corporation knowingly makes false and misleading factual statements to consumers in an effort to increase product sales.
In this particular case, a California citizen sued the Nike Corporation for making statements aimed at consumers that distorted its historic and present treatment of workers in overseas factories. When a Nike-sponsored audit of its facilities was leaked to the press and revealed pay stubs and other evidence that contradicted Nike’s statements, the company sought First Amendment protection in court.
In his argument to the Supreme Court, Congressman Kucinich wrote that corporations exist only as artificial entities or legal constructs that are expressly created by people and possess only the privileges we grant them. They have no unique entitlement to fundamental American rights and thus should not be granted the same liberties citizens enjoy, including the full protection of the freedoms contained within the Bill of Rights. Although Nike and other corporate officials must be free to express their views as individuals with full constitutional protections, different standards of speech protection should apply when those same officials carry out the business of the company. In such circumstances, the company and its managers act with a clear financial incentive to mislead the public in an effort to maximize shareholder returns.
Congressman Kucinich warned in the brief that if the Court ruled in favor of Nike, granting corporations a constitutional right to advertise product falsehoods, citizens would have no recourse to hold corporations accountable in a variety of circumstances critical to consumer safety and protection.
In his brief, Congressman Kucinich used the following hypothetical scenarios to underscore the types of false statements a corporation could legally express with full constitutional protections if Nike were to prevail:
- A tuna company could state that its tuna is caught in dolphin safe nets when it is not.
- A cosmetics company could state it does not test on animals when it does.
- An agricultural company could state its products are organic when they are not.
- A company could state its products are made by union labor when they are not.
In a victory for consumer protection and the integrity of the United States Constitution, the Supreme Court ultimately agreed with the arguments put forth in Congressman Kucinich’s brief and dismissed Nike’s claims.Preservation of Civil Rights Protections Act of 2005
Congressman Kucinich reintroduced HR 2969, the "Preservation of Civil Rights Protections Act of 2005" with senior Democrats on the Judiciary and Education and Workforce Committees. This important bill would reverse a significant assault on the rights of employees. The bill reverses the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Circuit City v Saint Clair Adams. That decision allows employers to require potential workers to waive their right to legally enforce their civil rights and accept mandatory, binding arbitration instead as a condition of employment.
Workers should not be required to waive their legal rights as a condition of employment. In addition, the legislative history of the Federal Arbitration Act does not support the Court majority's interpretation. Furthermore, arbitration is a valid form of dispute resolution only if it is voluntary. When employers can require that employees accept arbitration in order to get a job, employees are denied a voluntary choice.
These opinions are based on decades of labor law. The Norris-LaGuardia Act, the National Labor Relations Act, and the Older Workers Benefit Protection Act explicitly state that the employer- employee relationship is not balanced, to the employer's advantage. Furthermore, mandatory arbitration as a condition of employment is inherently unfair. According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's (EEOC) Policy Statement on Mandatory Binding Arbitration of Employment Discrimination Disputes as a Condition of Employment (1997), "[mandatory arbitration] agreements are imposed by employers because they believe them to be in their interests, and they are made possible by the employer's superior bargaining power." EEOC goes on to say, "agreements that mandate binding arbitration of discrimination claims as a condition of employment are contrary to the fundamental principles evinced" in the "nation's employment discrimination laws."
HR 2969 is also consistent with the history of the federal arbitration act. When the FAA was drafted in the mid-1920s, its purpose was to create a forum for the resolution of disputes between commercial businesses. The seamen's union worried that mandatory arbitration could be used to compel seamen to serve out the term of their contracts, resulting in involuntary servitude. Secretary of Commerce Herbert Hoover himself drafted the clarifying language to exclude the worker- employer relationship. The bill passed with support from both unions and business. Seventy-six years later, the U.S. Supreme Court ignored this history. They interpreted Hoover's exemption of workers from mandatory arbitration to mean only those workers involved in transportation. Everybody else is now subject to mandatory, binding arbitration.
HR 2969 amends the FAA by deleting everything after "employment" in 9 U.S.C. Section 1. The new exception would read, "but nothing herein contained shall apply to contracts of employment."
In addition, HR 2969 would make arbitration agreements between employers and employees unenforceable when they are conditions of employment. Arbitration agreements between employers and employees must be voluntary, meaning that they are made only after a dispute has begun. This preserves the right of employees to seek legal redress for violations of Federal statutory and Constitutional claims. The bill would apply to all pending disputes as well as future disputes.Protecting Against Workplace Discrimination
Congressman Kucinich believes that all Americans should be able to work in a friendly environment. Ending discrimination is and should be the goal of society. By cosponsoring the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, ENDA, Congressman Kucinich has stated his dedication to ending discrimination in the workforce. The bill would prohibit employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. He continues to work on a bipartisan basis to ensure that all Americans are treated fairly in the workplace.Putting Words Into Action
Congressman Kucinich has a written policy of non-discrimination with regards to sexual orientation for employment in his office. Defending Constitutional Rights
Congressman Kucinich is a cosponsor of legislation that would prohibit the use of "secret evidence" in trials conducted by the Immigration and Naturalization Service. Congressman Kucinich believes that the cornerstone of our judicial system is that evidence cannot be used against someone unless he or she has the chance to confront it. Congressman Kucinich strives to ensure the rights of all citizens regardless of race, religion, creed, ethnicity, sexual orientation, disabilities or age.Ending Racial Profiling
In the 108th Congress, Congressman Kucinich cosponsored a bill that would ban racial profiling by police. It would also require state and local governments to adopt policies to ban racial profiling in order to be eligible for federal law enforcement grants. In addition, grant money would be provided to state and local police departments for officer training to eliminate this practice.