Blacklisting was used by the rabid right-wing House Un-American Activities Committee from 1947-1960 during the “Red Scare” to silence American citizens exercising their constitutionally protected rights to free speech. Uncorroborated names of suspected communists in Hollywood were added to this list; those people were denied work (see the movie Trumbo) and publicly shamed for their espousal of political opinions. This period, known as the McCarthy Era, was infamous for its attacks on the First Amendment rights of individuals. It was a dangerous and shameful time in our recent history.
Once again, a government, this time the NYS Senate and Assembly, is considering instituting a blacklist. Individuals, corporations, non-profits, and other entities that espouse boycotting allies of the United States will be added to a public blacklist and denied employment, have their contracts with the State canceled, and/or have public funding of their programs ended. What will be considered as constituting boycotting, and who gets to propose names to the list, is unclear. It’s possible that your neighbor could add your name after a disagreement, or that someone in the community who disagrees with your political positions could do the same. Do we force all employers to ask prospective employees to answer the question, "Do you now, or have you ever, supported any prohibited boycott?" “Sign below under penalty of perjury,” or admit to it and be denied employment. This legislation clearly constitutes an abridgement of our First Amendment rights and undoubtedly will be challenged in the courts. Until such time though, we are all at risk.
What are individuals to do? Mainly let our voices be heard by those we elected to represent us. Call or write State Senator George Amedore who voted for NYS Senate Bill S6378, and also urge him to vote against S6086. Call or write State Assembly member Kevin Cahill, and tell him to vote against NYS Assembly Bills A9036 and A8220A when they reach the floor. Also, we can join together in our local communities to pass local resolutions that reaffirm our right to non-violently advocate for our political opinions. In this dangerous time, our vigilance is required.