The constantly expanding police-state powers of the US capitalist state have been steadily eroding the privacy rights of all U.S. citizens over the past 30 years. Back in the 1980s during the Reagan Administration when the capitalists began demanding that prospective employees take pre-employment urine tests for drug screening, the socialist left were the only ones who warned the workers that this was a bad idea, that it was just the thin end of the wedge of a drive to smash rights of workers and that if the unions, especially, allowed this crap it would set a terrible precedent and worse was sure to follow. Of course the commie-haters laughed at us at the time. Ah, this is how things are here in the “Land Of The Free”(TM)!
Back in the 1980s, workers were told that the drug testing would only be imposed on those with the most dangerous jobs or who performed work in which the lives of many other people would be at risk if they went to work while “under the influence”. Semi-truck drivers and airline pilots were among the first targets of the drug-testing crusade (or rather, the Teamsters and the airline employees unions were the targets); but very quickly, as those of us in the socialist movement predicted, the testing was expanded to more and more workers until today practically everyone is forced to take drug and background tests to get a job. And if you work with children — forget you ever had any privacy rights! The same U.S. capitalist class that cares sooooo much for the safety of children does nothing while 1 out of every 5 of them live in poverty… and then they try to cover their true indifference to the fates of the children of “mere workers” by forcing millions of teachers, day care workers and everyone who might possibly come into contact with children to go through a virtual strip-search to get a job or adopt a child! As if teachers, foster parents and childcare workers were historically nothing but a bunch of perverts or something! The fact is that approximately 90% of child sexual abusers are either a child’s own family members or family friends or acquaintances. But in the US, you can forget about dealing with that complex issue; for the capitalists it’s far easier and profitable to just terrify the children and their parents with “Stranger: Danger!” campaigns that do almost nothing to protect kids!
Another precedent was set back in the Reagan Administration as well: the refusal of corporate executives and political leaders to take these tests. When the union-buster and big-time pal of the Islamic jihadis in Afghanistan Ronald Reagan suggested that his own cabinet members set the example for the working class by themselves submitting to drug testing, then-Secretary of State George Shultz set an example all right – for his capitalist class: he told “The Great Communicator” basically to go fuck himself! (Interestingly, Shultz is now an honorary Chairman of a UN organization that calls for the decriminalization of drugs). And so it stands today: drug testing is forced upon the working class, while the capitalist “captains of industry”, politicians and top departmental heads throughout the US Government – who have the fates of millions of workers in their hands (and the blood of millions of workers on their hands) – refuse to be so humiliated.
After 30 years of steady betrayals by the cheeseburger-eating surrender monkeys “leading” the AFL-CIO, the predictions of the evil commies that urine testing was just the beginning of the screwing the working class was about to get have come true. The unions, whose pro-capitalist leadership, politically subordinated to the interests of the US capitalist class through their ties to the phony “friends of labor” in the Democratic Party, have refused to defend the US working class against this massive invasion of workers’ privacy. Now, not only do workers have to take urine tests, but millions of law-abiding U.S. worker-citizens are being forced to submit to criminal background checks and even fingerprinting if they want a job. Plans are in the works to expand the testing to include retinal scans, the submission of financial information and even DNA samples if you want a job!
We say this all sucks and it needs to be done away with. It’s a massive and wanton destruction of worker privacy rights; it’s also a waste of money and time and does little to nothing to increase safety in the workplace or in society. The trade-off of our privacy rights solely for the miniscule improvement in the profit margins of the capitalist class – and for the enormous financial benefit of the drug-testing, fingerprinting and other background checking industries (not to mention the insurance companies who are largely behind the whole scam) – is just not worth the enormous damage it does to the rights of the working class.
Anyway, to get to our main story: last week we had a fascinating conversation with a worker in Chicago who had an interesting experience that exposes the very real and present threat to worker privacy posed by these background-checking scams when he applied for a job that required him to work in a school in the Chicagoland area.
The job he applied for through his construction trades union was not a job in which he would be actually working with children at the school: he was to be doing construction work at a public school where children might be present somewhere else on the school grounds. Kids are never allowed to wander through construction sites at schools or anywhere else – the whole idea is ridiculous and it’s just a bullshit excuse used to justify collecting the fingerprints of millions of workers every year.
His prospective employer initially required him to come in to the company office “for an orientation” the week before the job was to begin. The company is gearing up for a lot of work at schools this summer so when he arrived there a bunch of other construction workers were there doing the same thing; they all had to fill out a pile of paperwork and attend a safety presentation. Then they were told that they were going to be sent to get drug tested that very same morning! Quel surprise!
Usually, workers are given enough time to at least get any recently used recreational drugs – like pot – to cycle out of their bodies so they can give a clean urine test (it takes about 15 days for THC to work its way out of a human body after you smoke some ganja, for example. That’s what we *heard*, OK?). Instead here they were being given a “pop drug test” by the company! Obviously, anyone who refused to comply would not only not get the job but would place themselves under suspicion of being a habitual drug user! Can you believe that the unions would even allow this to happen here in the “Greatest Country in the World”(TM)? But they do, because it’s a lot easier to sell workers out than it is to fight for workers’ rights – and the AFL-CIO piecards get paid the same no matter what they do.
OK, so this man and all the others at the “orientation” fill out their piles of paperwork (this too never used to be required for union construction workers) and they all go out to get drug tested at a private company that makes probably millions of dollars a year making sure that no one who smokes weed or toots a little blow occasionally can get a job here in the “Land of the Free”(TM). As if what we do on our free time is the company’s business! (This “Freedom”(TM) thing gets more complicated with every passing year!)
When they finish peeing in a cup for the company’s surprise drug test, the guys are told to report back to the “orientation” office. There, they are told that now they need to do just “one more little thing”: they have to go get fingerprinted! This means a trip to another facility in another part of town. Oh yes… and one other “little thing”: it’s going to cost $40 for the fingerprinting “service” – and the guys all have to pay for it up front! (But don’t worry: the company will reimburse you when you get your first paycheck – if you pass the drug screen and fingerprinting check)! Well at least we all can take solace in the “fact” that we live in “Freedom’s Land”(TM).
[In case you are wondering: this guy actually checked to make sure that the fingerprinting scam was allowed by the union. He was told that no one has to submit to the fingerprinting because it’s not in the union contract; but if he doesn’t do it he’s probably not going to be hired – the added implication being that the union will not back him up very strenuously if at all – if he refuses to be fingerprinted. Oh yes, and he’s told that it’s probably being done “to protect the children” – which is a pile of shit because as we said children are not going to be allowed anywhere near the construction site. As *if* union (or even non-union) construction workers were a bunch of child molesters or something! Yes, the unions are not what they once were here in “God’s Country”(TM).]
The worker-victim now is handed a piece of paper from the company with the letterhead of the fingerprinting operation – “Accurate Biometrics”. Here’s a copy of the form he’s given:
Now you’ll notice the legal release clause he is being asked to sign: it’s very brief – just a couple of sentences – and it says that the fingerprints will be sent to the Illinois State Police to be checked; here’s a closeup of it:
This guy has a bit of a sense of his Constitutional rights as a U.S. citizen, and he also is aware that most capitalists have proven themselves to be very poor custodians of their customers’ private information (to put it mildly)– so he asks the person behind the desk who will have custody of his fingerprints, where they will be stored and for how long. She tells him that Accurate Biometrics will not store a copy of the fingerprint info: the fingerprints will be sent to the Illinois State Police and placed in a federal database where they will be kept – forever!
Now our man is pretty pissed. He asks the fingerprint clerk at Accurate Biometrics for something in writing stating exactly what she just told him about the permanent storage of his fingerprints by the Illinois State Police in their permanent database but she says she has nothing she can give him in writing. So, he calls the union rep again and tells him what’s up. The union rep expresses surprise and offers condolences but little else.
So, our unhappy construction worker gets off the phone with the union rep and sits down in the now-crowded waiting room of people – many of whom are also quite surprised to overhear this discussion. He decides that he really needs the job and he’s never been arrested for anything significant so he’ll just bite the bullet and submit his damned fingerprints and thank god that he lives in “The Land of the Free”(TM) and not some godforsaken police state like Cuba or North Korea or the old Soviet Union or something.
So, he goes and gives the woman his filled-out form for his fingerprinting bullshit and she calls him behind the desk to where the fingerprinting is done. Using a small desktop scanner she takes his thumb prints; then his fingers, then individual prints… and when that’s done she enters some information into the computer and says “sign your name here” – indicating another small electronic device that captures signatures with an electronic pen. While she’s doing this, though, he notices something: on the computer’s big flat screen display, as she has completed the forms on the computer she quickly skipped through a release clause that looked about 3 times bigger than the one he originally signed – to get to the screen where his signature was to be displayed. “Wait a minute… you skipped the legal thing I’m supposed to read before I sign… I want to read that before I sign this.”
“Oh, I can’t go back to that screen” she says. “But don’t worry: it’s the same as the one on the paper form your filled out earlier.”
Now, he knows that the new release clause looked way bigger than the original one so he insists that she go back so he can read it before he signs. “Oh, I don’t know if I can do that… it’s definitely the same as the other one… I’ll have to delete the form and start all over” she whines.
“That’s O.K. just delete it and do it over again; I’m in no rush” he says. Now all the people in the waiting room are paying attention.
The clerk calls her manager (or maybe the owner of Accurate Biometrics?) and tells her what has happened and what does she need to do to save the info she already entered and get back to that legal clause screen and blah blah…
The person on the other end of the line then walks her through the steps to get to the new release clause on the computer version of the document. As soon as she put it up on the screen and briefly turned her back to him our construction worker took this photo of it:
Well, lo and behold! He was right! It’s completely different: at least three times longer than the original form! The first sentence is a shocker: it appears to authorize Accurate Biometrics to release whatever information is reported to them to – anyone they want to release it to! The it goes on to say that his prints will be sent to the Illinois State Police “and/or” the Federal Bureau of Investigation… and it implies that his fingerprints may be saved in perpetuity! It appears that the Illinois State Police will not do the background check themselves; in fact they may not even need to be involved because Accurate Biometrics reserves the right to just send the info straight to the FBI, who will actually perform the background check against their huge IAFIS fingerprint database – which contains both civilian and criminal records! Talk about bait-and-switch!
As you can imagine, our unhappy construction worker was now both unhappy and royally pissed off. “So you lied! It turns out the fingerprints get sent to the fucking FBI!” he says, making sure he says it loud enough for everyone in the waiting room to hear. “You lied to me: this is totally different!”
She sits there in embarrassed silence.
But what can he do? He needs the job; the union probably won’t go to bat for him if he refuses to be fingerprinted; and, after all, “this is the way it is these days; what can you do? You can’t fight City Hall!”(TM)
So, you see, Accurate Biometrics are apparently so concerned that if they tell people what they are actually doing with their fingerprints, people will freak out and they will lose their corporate clients: so they lie to everyone to get them to “comply” with their scam! It is totally illegal and underhanded and despicable – and oh, so common here in “the Land of the Free”(TM).
That’s the story so far as our unhappy worker-victim is concerned. He was forced by a prospective employer to submit his fingerprints to the FBI, who will take those fingerprints and store them forever in a massive government database composed of both criminal and civilian records. What do we know about this mysterious national fingerprint registry that is collecting the fingerprints of millions of law-abiding U.S. workers every year and placing them in a Big- Brotheresque massive police state database?
Actually, the story is much worse even than it obviously appears to be.
We’ll let you know about this totally unconstitutional and sinister FBI biometric-data collection operation that is the modern-day digital equivalent of the kind of comprehensive police-state apparatus that scum like Goebbels could only dream of back in his day in our next episode of this saga. If you’d like to read ahead of the class, it’s called the “Next Generation Identification” (NGI) program. And fingerprinting is just one key piece of this Orwellian US capitalist police state puzzle. Stay tuned.
— Friends of WikiLeaks Chicago