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Recording the Workplace

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As I have noted in posts here and in Out of Sight, the greatest threat of ag-gag laws, which criminalize knowledge of what happens inside agricultural operations to fight against animal rights activists getting hired to work so they can record and publicize the mistreatment of farm animals, is that if knowledge of one workplace is criminalized, why wouldn’t the law criminalize all public knowledge of what happens inside all workplaces? It’s an extremely dangerous precedent. It’s one that corporations are well of and have tried to implement. Luckily, Obama’s National Labor Relations Board is there to stop them, at least for now. It may not surprise that the corporation in discussion here is Whole Foods, whose interest in the lives of poor people largely extend to photos in their stores of happy brown farmers to provide an sheen of authenticity to their high prices and cultural appropriation and perhaps to their employees which they won’t allow to join a union.

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), in a 2-1 decision, ruled against blanket employer policies banning employees from taking photos or recordings in the workplace. Such policies would, in the view of the NLRB, having a chilling effect on employee’s ability to record or photograph workplace safety violations or actions that were discriminatory.

Whole Foods’ unsuccessful argument to the NLRB was that its policy allowed for a free and open discussion in the workplace, without concerns of statements appearing on the Internet. But the NLRB found that a blanket ban went too far, as it was “essential” in many cases to have a photo or video in order to prove a violation of an employee’s rights.

This is somewhat different of course than an ag-gag bill because the NLRB has no authority unless the images are recording workplace safety violations. But the principle is very important.

This case also is another reminder that we can demonize the other Democratic Party candidate all we want to, but the election in November is far, far more important than who wins the nomination.

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  • DocAmazing

    I confess to being a little worried, as the Food Lion case has recently been cited and might conceivably be used to support ag-gag laws.

    Oh, and nice euphemism with “the other Democratic Party candidate”.

    • It was meant as “the other to whoever you or anyone may support.” No one in particular.

      • DocAmazing

        Yeah, that was the brilliance of it. Martin O’Malley is still feeling the sting.

        • Martin “I inspired Erik’s favorite television show of all time so fucking show me some love you union supporters” O’Malley?

          Then again, if the election ends up being between two altacockers and Queens boy, will there be a turnout at all?

          • My favorite show of all time is Deadwood.

            • DocAmazing

              Is this the right spot for an erectile dysfunction/Martin O’Malley joke?

  • Dr. Ronnie James, DO

    OK – no more Whole Foods for me. It’s starting to feel like a Milgram psych experiment: “how much ethically shitty behavior can we get away with when OLIVE BAR CHEESE COUNTER SUSHI PIZZA COOKIE YUMMYUMM”?

    • Whole Foods pizza is terrible. They have a pizza oven. I don’t understand why it is so bad. At least in my experience.

      • Thirtyish

        In my experiences, their pizza was the one hot food item that I actually found wasn’t inexplicably bad (I mean, really–how does one ruin grilled vegetable salad?). Mind you, it wasn’t terrific, but I found it to at least be decent.

        • busker type

          how does one ruin grilled vegetable salad?
          um…

          • Thirtyish

            Well, at worst it should taste merely flavorless, not weirdly offensive, the way Whole Frauds’ rendition does.

      • Amanda in the South Bay

        You shop at Whole Foods? Even notorious anti BART union me doesn’t do that. of course I also worked there as a cashier for 4 years. Some pro labor academic you are.

        • apogean

          Whole Foods in the Pac NW has soy curls, which are fantastic and not yet widely available. I vastly prefer whichever local hippie grocery store/co-op is convenient, but I live in Portland so I have a lot of choice in that regard.

        • You have no standing to question anyone’s position on labor unions. That you think you do is highly amusing to me.

          • Amanda in the South Bay

            Seriously? I’d have gladly gotten fired while working at Whole Foods in order to support creating a union. Go fuck yourself.

  • busker type

    I wholeheartedly agree that Ag-Gag bills are terrible, but I am extremely skeptical of the notion that you can sexually abuse an animal.

      • busker type

        well, I watched the video and while certainly much of what it shows is abuse, touching a cow’s vagina is not particularly cruel, and calling it “sexual” abuse muddies the water around what actual sexual abuse is. Sexual abuse is fundamentally a violation of a person’s right to determine what happens to their body, a right that animals don’t have, otherwise we wouldn’t eat them or keep them on farms.

        • While I am sure we are all excited for ProgressiveLiberal to jump in and tell us all we are hypocrites, I don’t think this is the right moral argument. It seems to me that we want expansive visions of abuse if they are in fact abuse. I don’t think saying this is the sexual abuse of a cow in any way, shape, or form trivalizes or muddies the water around the sexual abuse of humans. I simply don’t see the argument.

          • busker type

            is it sexual abuse to artificially inseminate a cow?

            • Warren Terra

              FIf your goal was to get your jollies rather than to produce a calf, or if you in some way altered the procedure not to make it safer or more efficient but for a perverted motive, it could be. In general, no.

              Similarly, gynecologists do things for good reason that would be decidedly strange without their credentials and purpose.

              • busker type

                a gynecologist doing anything to a woman’s genitalia without her consent is abuse.

                Animals are fundamentally different.

                • Warren Terra

                  Yes, but our society gives consent to slaughter animals but not to mistreat them, to medicate them but not to mutilate them (though you could argue about tail bobbing and the like). It’s not the same as a woman giving consent, obviously, but in the analogy it performs the same function.

                • busker type

                  It doesn’t violate anyone’s personal autonomy because our society doesn’t grant animals a right of personal autonomy.

          • Thirtyish

            Unfortunately, any discussion that brings attention to cruelty to non-human animals (sexual or otherwise) is bound to produce anxiety on the part of certain people, along the lines of “how dare you trivialize humans/deny human supremacy!!11” It skates awfully close to the idea that humans are made in “god’s image” (which, needless to say, I have no sympathy for) and any attention we pay to non-human animals or imply that their existence has some value as well is seen as threatening that.

          • busker type

            I guess I worry that farmworkers end up getting a raw deal when people who don’t know anything about agriculture look at these videos. I mean, sure prosecute the farm owners and try to change the system… but the guy who was seen in these videos jumping on a cow served 102 days in jail, and is not allowed to work with livestock as a condition of his parole. That seems excessive to me.

            The sexual abuse thing I think is a category mistake and is inflammatory to a general public whose main experience with animals is with pets and who don’t really realize what it takes to manage farm animals.

            And yes, I think it is unhelpful to suggest that an animal (which is incapable of consent) can be sexually abused, given that so many people in our society seem to be unclear about what consent means in the context of sexual abuse or assault.

            • Warren Terra

              That’s why we have slander laws, among other things,for when people have maliciously misrepresented you in public – not when they might do so later.

              In general, prior restraint of speech is supposed to be frowned upon in this country; surely recording what you see and hear could be considered a first step towards speech under this principle?

              • busker type

                I’m definitely not suggesting that Ag-gag bills are good or should be upheld.

            • Juicy_Joel

              So its not possible to sexually abuse any non-human animal, and the guy who was filmed fondling the cows vagina was just “managing farm animals”. Thanks for clearing that up.

              • busker type

                I’m actually amazed that so many people disagree with me here. If the farmworker in the video had punched the cow’s vagina or poked it or caused the cow pain in its genitals that would be abuse, because of the pain… not because it was sexual. The cow really doesn’t give a shit about what we might consider sexual.

            • apogean

              I’m not following your argument; if anything, this case seems to be a *clearer* distinction than real-world cases of sexual abuse, because animals can NEVER consent, whereas with humans we have to ask the question of what constitutes consent.

              Maybe what you’re getting at is that we intuitively judge whether treatment of animals constitutes abuse based on the motives of the human involved (i.e. doing it for sexual reasons is deviant, while for health reasons such as spaying or neutering a pet is permissible) where we do not take this into account in nearly the same way when we say a human is sexually assaulted. It doesn’t matter if you *thought* it’s in someone’s best interests if they don’t consent. But that doesn’t imply that animals can’t be sexually abused so much as it implies that sexual abuse of animals uses a different standard, and is different conceptually, than sexual abuse of humans. To me, it makes sense to group them under the same label, even if the definitions are a little different. In a similar vein, while torturing a human to death and killing them painlessly are both murder, torturing an animal to death and killing it painlessly are morally distinct.

              • busker type

                well… I guess if you want to call it by the same name while acknowledging that it is a different thing you can do that. I would prefer to just come up with a different name for it.

                • apogean

                  It’s the same thing, though, and we want to prevent it for something like the same reasons; it’s just that the standards are a little different.

                • busker type

                  wait… what (for you) is the reason why touching an animal in a sexual way is something we want to prevent?

            • Yankee

              Likewise small children are incapable of consent, and therefore any sexual approach to such a one is abusive. People who do this sort of thing anyway also like to deny the implications.

              Farm boys have been known to pull their pants down for chickens and horses. Your comments?

              • What about Gene Wilder and the sheep in Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex?

                • N__B

                  Any kink that leads to you chugging Woolite is probably a mistake.

              • busker type

                that’s between the farmboy and the horse. I’ve never heard of anybody fucking a chicken, but that would probably be abusive because it would cause the chicken pain.

                Are you seriously comparing sex with farm animals to abusing children? do I actually need to explain why these things are different?

                • Yankee

                  never heard of … well there you are. No true Scotsman would fuck a chicken.

    • Snuff curry

      Can you explain that skepticism?

    • Thirtyish

      Um, what is there to be skeptical of? Unless this is coming from a “non-human animals don’t really have feelings/count for anything” mindset.

      • DrDick

        I think it has to do with consent and legal standing, but even still, I think it is a far stretch. Even most farmers and ranchers I have known do not approve of overt and unnecessary abuse.

        • busker type

          to be clear, abusing animals is bad.

          But touching an animal in a sexual way (that does not otherwise cause it pain or distress) does not harm the animal in the way that touching a person in a sexual way without their consent does. It might be weird or gross or creepy or make you a pervert, but it is not abuse.

          • Snuff curry

            How do you (not arbitrarily) decide what constitutes and then measure sexual pain in animals? How is sexualized violence different from non-sexualized violence here? You’re using a loose definition of consent to pre-emotively hand-wave away pain you’ve yet to prove doesn’t exist, and that’s dishonest.

            • busker type

              I have never heard of “sexual pain” before. Please define that for me.

              sexual abuse is bad because it violates a persons personal autonomy over their body. It takes away their right to determine who gets to touch them in a sexual way and when. Animals don’t have personal autonomy, they don’t get to decide who touches them or when, sexually or otherwise.

    • busker type

      I really can’t believe I’m the only person here who thinks this.

      ETA- I actually thought this would be sort of a little joke that no one would respond to.

      • Murc

        No, I’m with you on this. One of the ways I’m heterodox in my ideology is that I’m of the opinion that as long as we consider it okay to specifically breed an animal, render it docile through upbringing and training, teach it trust humans, and then shoot a rivet into its brain and devour it for no better reason than we find its flesh delicious and pleasurable to consume, then getting bent out of shape over just about anything else we do to them is hugely hypocritical.

        Animals are here for us to make use of them, and if it’s morally okay for me to derive physical pleasure from the sensation produced when a perfectly cooked piece of tenderloin hits my tongue, I can’t really make myself morally condemn those who derive physical pleasure from animals in other ways.

        This caused quite a blowup last time we had a thread on it.

        • McAllen

          It is certainly true that our society’s views on ethical treatment of animals is wildly incoherent. I’m disinclined to make the leap from that to “therefore, everything goes.”

          • sapient

            +1

          • jim, some guy in iowa

            “anything goes” is probably not what Murc was saying, but yeah

            • sapient

              There’s a difference between relying on animals for sustenance and wantonly disregarding their dignity and capacity for suffering. I realize that vegetarianism isn’t easy, or isn’t even an option, for everyone, but avoiding the infliction of unnecessary suffering certainly is.

    • busker type

      wait… what (for you) is the reason why touching an animal in a sexual way is something we want to prevent?

      I actually would like an answer to this…

      • Thirtyish

        Well, for me, it has to do with the fact that I believe that non-human animals deserve a measure of respect, just as it’s seen as a given that human beings do. It’s a value judgment, but I believe it very strongly.

        • busker type

          And for you is it more disrespectful to touch them in their naughty bits than to kill them for food?

          • Snuff curry

            Emotive language insinuating people are being prudish about attacking cows’ vaginas does not prove your case. People breed, feed, and inhumanely slaughter livestock for food in exchange for money; fucking animals to amuse co-workers is surplus to requirements, so you’ll have to explain why objecting to unnecessary torture prior to the snuffing out of life makes someone an amoral, hypocritical monster.

            • busker type

              no, you’ll have to tell me why touching a cows vagina is torture

      • kenjob

        The kind of person who would touch an animal in a sexual way i.e. explicitly without the animal’s consent is the same kind of person who would touch a person in a sexual way without the person’s consent.

        The injury to the animal is immaterial except as an indicator of the injurer’s risk to society.

        This is the same reason we have animal cruelty laws with penalties above and beyond other varieties of property crime.

        • busker type

          this is a coherent critique, but I disagree. I would say that we have animal cruelty laws to prevent suffering in animals. And I’m not at all sure that touching an animal in a sexual way has any predictive power of whether someone will sexually abuse a person.

          • kenjob

            Engaging in a sexual act in the absence of consent is predictive of future disregard for consent.

            This not about the animals. It’s about the abuser.

            • busker type

              I just don’t agree… We do all kinds of things to animals that would be wrong to do to a person without their consent… Lock them up, sterilize them, kill them… why is sexual contact any different?

              Are hunters more likely to be murderers? are dog owners more likely to be kidnappers?

              • kenjob

                Sexual contact is different because pair bonding in vertebrates is facilitated by oxytocin and vasopressin. Dopaminergic association of the expression of these hormones with behaviors that disregard consent predisposes an individual to repeat these behaviors.

                Framing the issue in the broader context of man’s relationship with nature is evasive.

                • busker type

                  evasive? bullshit.

                  I’m saying that doing X to an animal is not predictive of doing X to a human.

                  You have an interesting theory, and you might be right, but now we’re at a point where actual evidence would be useful, and I certainly don’t have any. do you?

                • kenjob

                  The literature on pair bonding is extensive.
                  As is the literature on recidivism of sexual offenders.
                  Dopaminergic mediation of behavior is far from speculative.

                  My point is that sexual behaviors are fundamentally distinct from other behaviors. This is a biochemical argument, not a moral argument or a statistical argument. One does not need to take sexual histories of pigfuckers to determine the risk presented by the activity depicted in the video.

      • Juicy_Joel

        Yeah! Has anyone even bothered to ASK the animals? Their enjoyment of our dalliances is clearly unambiguous.

        • busker type

          as is their enjoyment of being made into a hamburger.

          • Juicy_Joel

            So in college I knew some frat boy types who for shits and giggles would routinely finger fuck their pet dog. Great dog owners or greatest ever dog owners? At least they didn’t eat it, right?

            • busker type

              I don’t know what to tell ya man.

              that’s weird… I wouldn’t do it… but I’m not really upset over it.

              • Really?

                Seriously?

                You don’t see a moral problem here?

                • busker type

                  no.

                  eta- It’s very weird, but I genuinely don’t see anything immoral about it.

  • Thirtyish

    may not surprise that the corporation in discussion here is Whole Foods, whose interest in the lives of poor people largely extend to photos in their stores of happy brown farmers to provide an sheen of authenticity to their high prices and cultural appropriation and perhaps to their employees which they won’t allow to join a union.

    Yesterday, I attended a Meetup group, which was good. The bad thing was that it took place in the dining section of an area Whole Foods (and a particular one which I’m guessing is probably the worst in the entire NYC area). As I wandered my way through the store in search of my group, it struck me that I’m very glad that I hardly ever step foot inside of Whole Frauds anymore. The place positively reeks of white, yuppie suburbanism, and that’s one thing I was very glad to escape when I left Colorado.

    • AMK

      So….you escaped from “yuppie suburbanism” in Colorado by moving to the NYC area? Let me tell you how I escaped the flu by jumping in the ebola tank.

  • Warren Terra

    It seems to me inevitable that something like (the deceased) Google Glass will eventually succeed; the notion of Augmented Reality, or perhaps Annotated Reality, with a computer looking at the same thing you’re seeing, saving images for future memories and providing additional information and context for what it sees in real time at the periphery of your vision, there if you need it. This isn’t some perfect future – the privacy issues are immense, plus the question of turning your entire life instead of just your emails or social media over to Google, FaceBook, or equivalent. Still, the advantages are so obvious, eventually some or many people will willingly be recording anything and everything they see. How will such laws preventing not only the dissemination but also the recording of video cope then?

    • AMK

      I think Google Glass failed because most people who are not already Silicon Valley obsessives don’t want that kind of augmented reality/life-tracking going on full time. It’s one thing to check your phone; it’s another thing to put it on your face and live in it. It seems like Glass would make a good case study for groupthink…..all of Sergey Brin’s friends and engineers thought it was a great idea, so why not the rest of the world?

      • DocAmazing

        Google Glass also failed because many of its users had/have real problems with consent and boundary issues, and would do things like filming people in bars and clubs while being told to go away. A technology that enables intrusive, nosy assholes to be more intrusive and nosy (and not in a good, investigative-journalist kind of way) is going to create pushback.

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