Supreme Court Rules Against Worker Rights
Workers in America long ago learned what it takes to gain rights they’d otherwise be denied.
It requires organizing, pressing demands, taking to the streets, going on strike, holding boycotts, resisting corporate and government power allied against them, at times paying with rank and file lives to get results.
An eight-hour day, decent pay, important benefits, pensions and more were gotten this way. The high-water mark in America was passage of the landmark 1935 Wagner Act. For the first time, labor could bargain collectively with management on equal terms.
Most everything gained earlier was lost. Under Obama, business got bailed out. Labor got sold out, rank and file members forced to make painful concessions – neoliberal harshness prevailing over eroding social justice.
Full-time, high-paying jobs with good benefits began fast disappearing years agi, replaced by rotten part-time or temp ones with few or no benefits.
Much of America’s industrial base shifted abroad to low-wage countries, millions of good jobs with it – why real unemployment exceeds 20%.
Underemployment affects most workers with jobs. Labor rights are at a shadow of their high-water mark, heading toward disappearing altogether.
The 1947 Taft-Hartley Labor-Management Relations Act initiated labor’s decline, one-sidedly pro-corporate legislation.
Harry Truman invoked it 10 times after calling it a “slave labor bill. Workers and unions are penalized. Corporate bosses have things their way.
Bottom line priorities take precedence of worker rights and fair labor practices. A race to the bottom increasingly heads most working Americans toward near wage-slave status.
The US Supreme Court is supremely pro-business, notably since the 1886 Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railway ruling, granting corporations legal personhood with all rights afforded individuals, free from responsibilities.
Limited liability status protects them, aided by pro-business legislation and favorable High Court rulings.
In Exxon Shipping v. Baker, the Court reduced an original $5 billion in punitive damages to $500 million – 19 years after the notorious 1989 Exxon Valdez incident, spilling 11 million gallons of crude into Prince William Sound, Alaska, changing the lives of its people forever, the Supremes denying them just compensation.
Numerous other one-sidedly pro-business rulings came down earlier and ever since, lowering the bar for future malfeasance settlements, business given latitude to be largely unaccountably reckless, endangering the environment and public health freely.
In November 2003, the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) offered hope for enhancing worker rights. It went nowhere under Bush/Cheney.
Obama was no friendlier.
In July 2009, he and undemocratic Senate Dems agreed to eliminate EFCA’s “card check” provision from pending legislation.
Enactment would have required employers to recognize the right to organize once most workers signed union cards freely and openly. Hope for passage died. So did worker rights.
Union bosses side more with management than rank and file workers. So do Republicans, undemocratic Dems and SCOTUS.
On Wednesday, Supreme Court justices ruled 5 – 4 against worker rights in Janus v. AFSCME (American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees), the nation’s largest public employees union.
For many years, public and private worker rights in America steadily eroded. Several states passed legislation, restricting worker rights to unionize and collectively bargain for better wages and benefits.
Janus v. AFSCME is the most recent challenge to public worker rights, with implications for all working Americans.
Corporate interests backing Janus plaintiffs sought to weaken the collective bargaining power of unions by restricting the ability of public sector unions to collect fair share fees for representation they provide.
Commenting on the High Court ruling, Patriotic Millionaires head Morris Pearl said it “marks a victory in the decades-long Republican campaign to undermine the labor movement.”
“(I)t is a victory for everyone except the American worker. This is an assault on the labor movement, full stop, and should not be commemorated as anything less.”
AFSCME tweeted: The ruling “sends our economy in the wrong direction, (majority justices) sid(ing) with billionaires” over working Americans.
Economic Policy Institute’s Celine McNicholas accused the Court of “elevat(ing) the objections of a minority over the democratically determined choices of the majority of workers and prohibited state and local government workers from negotiating collective bargaining agreements with fair share fee arrangements,” adding:
“(W)orkers…wish(ing) to join in union will be forced to operate with fewer and fewer resources. This will lead to reduced power at the bargaining table and in the political process.”
“It will have profound implications for not just the 6.8 million state and local government workers covered by a union contract, but all 17.3 million state and local government workers and indeed for every working person throughout the country.”
A Final Comment
On Wednesday, Justice Anthony Kennedy, age-81, announced his retirement, effective at end of July.
Considered a swing justice, his departure gives Trump a chance to further stack the Supreme Court with another right-wing extremist – gaining a clear majority hostile to most everything just societies hold dear.
My newest book as editor and contributor is titled “Flashpoint in Ukraine: How the US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III.”