Hollywood comes out to bat for Obama: video round-up

Sarah Jessica Parker, Lena Dunham, and Lucas Gray have all produced videos in support of the president.

Under two weeks to go until the US election, and the media world is going headfirst into its support of both candidates. But mainly Obama.

Sarah Jessica Parker appeared on Access Hollywood and passionately gave her reasons for supporting Obama (after a detour about her trip to collect Irish groceries which, apparently, are a thing) – and for opposing Romney.

Jezebel, who posted the video, sum up her appearance:

Romney's flip-flopping, almost accidentally shows her home address on National TV because she's JUST LIKE US, acknowledges that she would be better off financially with Romney as president but she's concerned about equality and women's rights, she won't move to Canada if Romney wins because she will not give up on this country, she is all about women voting, WOMEN VOTE DAMMIT OR SHE WILL COME AFTER YOU. . .

SJP for president! OF MY HEART.

Elsewhere, animator Lucas Gray, who has previously worked on the Simpsons and Family Guy, wrote and directed a superb three-minute adaptation of one of Obama's speeches into a film called Why Obama Now. It focuses on attacking the concept of "trickle down" economics, and does a remarkably good job. Plus, it has graphs, but doesn't scare people with them:

Finally, Lena Dunham, writer, director and star of Sky's Girls, has produced a sweetly funny video about her first time (voting), aimed at people in the same situation this year as she was last election:

The president speaks. Image from the video "Why Obama Now"

Alex Hern is a technology reporter for the Guardian. He was formerly staff writer at the New Statesman. You should follow Alex on Twitter.

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How tribunal fees silenced low-paid workers: “it was more than I earned in a month”

The government was forced to scrap them after losing a Supreme Court case.

How much of a barrier were employment tribunal fees to low-paid workers? Ask Elaine Janes. “Bringing up six children, I didn’t have £20 spare. Every penny was spent on my children – £250 to me would have been a lot of money. My priorities would have been keeping a roof over my head.”

That fee – £250 – is what the government has been charging a woman who wants to challenge their employer, as Janes did, to pay them the same as men of a similar skills category. As for the £950 to pay for the actual hearing? “That’s probably more than I earned a month.”

Janes did go to a tribunal, but only because she was supported by Unison, her trade union. She has won her claim, although the final compensation is still being worked out. But it’s not just about the money. “It’s about justice, really,” she says. “I think everybody should be paid equally. I don’t see why a man who is doing the equivalent job to what I was doing should earn two to three times more than I was.” She believes that by setting a fee of £950, the government “wouldn’t have even begun to understand” how much it disempowered low-paid workers.

She has a point. The Taylor Review on working practices noted the sharp decline in tribunal cases after fees were introduced in 2013, and that the claimant could pay £1,200 upfront in fees, only to have their case dismissed on a technical point of their employment status. “We believe that this is unfair,” the report said. It added: "There can be no doubt that the introduction of fees has resulted in a significant reduction in the number of cases brought."

Now, the government has been forced to concede. On Wednesday, the Supreme Court ruled in favour of Unison’s argument that the government acted unlawfully in introducing the fees. The judges said fees were set so high, they had “a deterrent effect upon discrimination claims” and put off more genuine cases than the flimsy claims the government was trying to deter.

Shortly after the judgement, the Ministry of Justice said it would stop charging employment tribunal fees immediately and refund those who had paid. This bill could amount to £27m, according to Unison estimates. 

As for Janes, she hopes low-paid workers will feel more confident to challenge unfair work practices. “For people in the future it is good news,” she says. “It gives everybody the chance to make that claim.” 

Julia Rampen is the digital news editor of the New Statesman (previously editor of The Staggers, The New Statesman's online rolling politics blog). She has also been deputy editor at Mirror Money Online and has worked as a financial journalist for several trade magazines.