Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The Supreme Court, Hostile To Workers

On June 19, 2008 the United States Supreme Court, in a 7-2 decision written by Justice Stevens (joined by Justices Roberts, Scalia, Alito, Kennedy, Thomas, and Souter) enjoined enforcement by the State of California of Assembly Bill 1889, signed into law in September, 2000. Among other things, the legislation aims to "prohibit a grant recipient, state contractor, public employer, or private employer who receives state funds and meets other requirements from using state funds to assist, promote, or deter union organizing."

The Court reversed and remanded the decision of the Ninth Circuit Court, which had ruled in favor of the State after the District Court had ruled in favor of the employers. Stevens' opinion argued that by adding Section 8(c) to the National Labor Relations Act, Congress determined, in the words of SCOTUS blog, "noncoercive speech by either unions or employers cannot be subject to NLRB regulation as an unfair labor practice."

The minority noted that a provision preventing the use of state funds for a particular private activity is not a "regulation" in terms of the NLRA,and that states have broad authority to determine how to spend their own money.

Kansan Bob Dole, Senate Majority Leader, Republican National Committee chairman, Vice-Presidential nominee, and Presidential nominee, used to boast that he kept in the pocket of his shirt an index card with the text of the Tenth Amendment of the United States Constitution. But this decision by the Court- with all seven GOP appointees and neither Democratic appointee- in the majority suggests that the high court has followed the lead of Repub politicians in brushing aside this amendment in order to pledge allegiance to the corporate money. The idea that a state cannot prohibit money taken by taxpayers (for whom Republicans continually claim a great bond) from being spent on preventing unionization is breathtaking (or would be, if not such a boring subject).

Election of a Democratic nominee for president is needed to push back against the rightward plunge of the Court in several controversial areas. But a Democratic president also must consider the rights of American workers- and other economic issues- in filling the vacancies that are likely to emerge on the Supreme Court in the next four years.

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