MY TURN-The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS), perpetuated its' activist feeding frenzy of bad decisions last week with the case of Harris v. Quinn. The ruling harms both individual union workers and potent ially the entire union movement, and as a seemingly benign case, it is particularly pernicious to teachers and their unions.
This SCOTUS ruling in this possible union busting case was dominated by the usual suspects, the conservative/reactionary Roberts Court 5, with vociferously and openly anti- union jurist Alito (photo) writing the opinion for the rest of the boys, Scalia, Thomas, Roberts, and Kennedy. This blow to organized labor delivered another coffin nail to the American union movement.
This case is about home health care workers not wanting to pay even small fees, much less dues, to cover the union's collective bargaining which benefits them. Again, as with the recent Vergara case in central California, the plaintiffs were hand picked and nurtured by the big boys who work toward busting all unions while instituting their oligarchy.
It has long been the goal of the plutocrats like Eli Broad, Bill Gates, the Waltons, Rupert Murdoch, the Kochs, Anschutz, Petersen, and their ilk, to work toward decimating the entire union movement and do away with collective bargaining, child labor laws, and other hard fought union/worker rights.
Viewing SCOTUS activist rulings since Bush v. Gore whereby they appointed the President of the US, and on to Citizens' United which was recently beefed up by the Supremes with the McCutcheon ruling, and now to Harris v. Quinn, with the majority reactionary Five in their corner these billionaire oligarchs are well on the way to achieving their goal.
Following on the heels of the recent Vergara decision in California, touted as a "civil rights" case about teacher tenure, but in reality a subterranean case brought by billionaires David Welch and the notorious Eli Broad, the issues of tenure and the ability to fire accused "ineffective" teachers were actually tangential, and the underlying goal of the case was to get a preliminary toe hold to break the back of teachers' unions.
Teachers' unions, as seen by these billionaires who chose their litigants carefully, are assumed to be the weakest in the nation and the easiest to finish off. And tomorrow the world.
The 1977 Abood decision, also mentioned in Harris, grants states the right to require workers to pay union dues, and it remains intact, at least for the time being. Right to work laws however will nip away at this ruling.
Linda Greenhouse wrote in the NY Times last year about the case Knox v. SEIU, a case that did not get much attention at the time, but "should have for it was a precursor to the future of labor law in the hands of an anti union conservative majority."
Knox was even more narrow than Harris v. Quinn in ruling whether a public employee union in California had properly handled a temporary dues increase to fight anti union propositions on the ballot.
Seven justices – all except Stephen G. Breyer and Elena Kagan – agreed that the union’s procedure was inadequate, but the union had already returned the money to the objectors and had, in fact, argued that the case was thus moot.
But Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., writing for a five-member majority that included Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justices Antonin Scalia, Anthony M. Kennedy, and Clarence Thomas, went beyond the confines of the case to suggest strongly that the decades-old accommodation between union members and non-members in public workplaces violates the First Amendment rights of the non-members. This team of 5 carries case law into realms of activism that defy the court's integrity.
Roberts, Scalia, Thomas, Alito, and Kennedy voted in lockstep, as they did this week with Harris v. Quinn (and the Hobby Lobby case against women and birth control, and in favor of religious plaintiffs who call their actions free speech). Alito wrote the opinion of the reactionary/activist 5, then as now, in saying that Unions get a "remarkable boon" by collecting fees. He went against established precedent yet again.
Knox highlighted the disparity between the wealthy instigators of the suit, and workers, and was a light bulb moment in the SCOTUS decision of Citizens' United whereby these five most activist judges in all of American history ruled that a simple case involving a film made about Hillary Clinton, full of invective and mendacity, was free speech.
They extended their ruling to say that corporations are people and should be treated as such and have the right to spend their deep pockets lucre to buy candidates elections.
Then earlier this year, they extended this even further with the McCutcheon ruling that says that these corporate donors do not have to be identified, so that the public has not an inkling of who dumps treasure troves into buying our elections.
What is this rush to judgment of the lower courts, and SCOTUS, to undermine precedent and to render even false decisions as with Judge Treu and Vergara, wherein his ruling was based on the testimony of two identified experts who quoted fantasy data?
In Vergara, which now serves as the template for other such filings nationwide, both Chetty and Berliner admitted that their statistics were only pulled from the sky and the numbers they used in their testimony were not the result of real process driven data collection.
Still the judge ruled for the 9 children plaintiffs. In the Vergara case, there was repeated name calling of the LAUSD teacher who was claimed to be the hub of ineffectiveness, but who proved to be in actuality a highly respected award winning educator.
This case might be reversed on appeal but it is more likely to wend it's way up to a higher court.
Labor historian Gary Chaison at Clark University says the unions are slowly dying the death of a thousand cuts.
Do you see a pattern emerging?
We no longer have an unbiased Supreme Court, but rather 5 justices who are beholden to and supporting the economic goals of America's robber barons, the billionaires and Wall Street hucksters who want total reign over our society, and who are hoarding to themselves the wealth produced by the workers. We have the greatest disparity of wealth and poverty in the world, and in American history.
(Ellen Lubic is Director of Joining Forces for Education. She is an educator and a policy maker and can be reached at: [email protected])
Vol 12 Issue 54
Pub: Jul 4, 2014