FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Supreme Court’s Hostility to Organized Labor

To anyone interested in the future health of organized labor, they should know that it just took a decided turn for the worse.  On Thursday, June 19, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a California law which had made it illegal for employers to spend state-provided funds in their propaganda campaigns to discourage employees from voting for union representation.

By a 7-2 vote (Justices Breyer and Ginsburg were the two dissenters), the Court overruled the U.S. 9th District Court of Appeals and declared that, by infringing on an employer’s right to “free expression,” the California state law was unconstitutional.

The measure, known as California Assembly Bill 1889, was the first one of its kind to be passed in the United States.  However, since its passage, in 2000, ten other states, including New York and Florida, have gone on to enact similar laws.  As a consequence of this decision, all of those state laws are unenforceable.

In effect, the ruling means that a business which regularly receives taxpayer funds (such as a nursing home) is permitted to use those funds—to spend that money—on its efforts to keep a labor union out, to prevent a union from representing its employees.  Let’s run that by again, slowly:  Unions aren’t allowed to use state money in their recruitment drives, but management is allowed to use it in their attempt to keep them out?

If that sounds a bit, well, one-sided, that’s exactly how it seemed to Justice Breyer, who noted that the courts generally give state legislatures “broad authority to spend [taxpayer] money” any way they choose.  According to Breyer, if Californians choose not to have their tax money used in management campaigns to keep the unions out, “why should they be conscripted into paying?”

In response to the argument that the law was a violation of the Constitution’s freedom of speech provisions, Breyer retorted that what the state of California was saying, in effect, was, “Go ahead, speak, speak . . . just not on our nickel.”  Apparently, that line of reasoning wasn’t compelling enough to persuade his fellow jurists, not even Justice Souter or Justice Stevens.

The original lawsuit was filed in 2002 by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.  The Chamber won a decision in federal court and, later, had it upheld by a three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit.  But in 2006, the full 9th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the panel’s decision, ruling that allowing businesses to use taxpayer to combat unions violating the “neutrality” of labor law.  With the blessings of the Bush administration, the Chamber of Commerce took the matter to the Supreme Court.

The implications of this decision are enormous and, frankly, ominous.  No one has ever tried to say that management didn’t have the constitutional right to attempt to make its case against having its employees join a labor union, so long as that case was presented legally, without intimidation, deception or coercion.  The only thing labor ever wanted was a fair shot at reaching the workers directly, on a level playing field.

But this Supreme Court decision is a whole other deal.  By allowing management to use taxpayer-supplied government money in its anti-union campaign, it turns democracy on its head.  It becomes a case of the People’s money being used to fight the People.

How is this arrangement to be regarded in any way as “neutral”?  And how can anyone say with a straight face that this constitutes a level playing field?   In truth, it’s one more example of the Court’s deep-seated hostility to labor.

DAVID MACARAY, a Los Angeles playwright and writer, was a former labor union rep.  He can be reached at dmacaray@earthlink.net

 

 

 

 

 

 

More articles by:

David Macaray is a playwright and author. His newest book is How To Win Friends and Avoid Sacred Cows.  He can be reached at dmacaray@gmail.com

August 14, 2018
Daniel Falcone
On Taking on the Mobilized Capitalist Class in Elections: an Interview With Noam Chomsky
Karl Grossman
Turning Space Into a War Zone
Jonah Raskin
“Fuck Wine Grapes, Fuck Wines”: the Coming Napafication of the World
Manuel García, Jr.
Climate Change Bites Big Business
Alberto Zuppi - Cesar Chelala
Argentina at a Crossroads
Chris Wright
On “Bullshit Jobs”
Rosita A. Sweetman
Dear Jorge: On the Pope’s Visit to Ireland
Binoy Kampmark
Authoritarian Revocations: Australia, Terrorism and Citizenship
Sara Johnson
The Incredible Benefits of Sagebrush and Juniper in the West
Martin Billheimer
White & Red Aunts, Capital Gains and Anarchy
Walter Clemens
Enough Already! Donald J. Trump Resignation Speech
August 13, 2018
Michael Colby
Migrant Injustice: Ben & Jerry’s Farmworker Exploitation
John Davis
California: Waging War on Wildfire
Alex Strauss
Chasing Shadows: Socialism Won’t Go Away Because It is Capitalism’s Antithesis 
Kathy Kelly
U.S. is Complicit in Child Slaughter in Yemen
Fran Shor
The Distemper of White Spite
Chad Hanson
We Know How to Protect Homes From Wildfires. Logging Isn’t the Way to Do It
Faisal Khan
Nawaz Sharif: Has Pakistan’s Houdini Finally Met his End?
Binoy Kampmark
Trump Versus Journalism: the Travails of Fourth Estate
Wim Laven
Honestly Looking at Family Values
Fred Gardner
Exploiting Styron’s Ghost
Dean Baker
Fact-Checking the Fact-Checker on Medicare-for-All
Weekend Edition
August 10, 2018
Friday - Sunday
David Price
Militarizing Space: Starship Troopers, Same As It Ever Was
Andrew Levine
No Attack on Iran, Yet
Melvin Goodman
The CIA’s Double Standard Revisited
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: The Grifter’s Lament
Aidan O'Brien
In Italy, There are 12,000 American Soldiers and 500,000 African Refugees: Connect the Dots 
Robert Fantina
Pity the Democrats and Republicans
Ishmael Reed
Am I More Nordic Than Members of the Alt Right?
Kristine Mattis
Dying of Consumption While Guzzling Snake Oil: a Realist’s Perspective on the Environmental Crisis
James Munson
The Upside of Defeat
Brian Cloughley
Pentagon Spending Funds the Politicians
Pavel Kozhevnikov
Cold War in the Sauna: Notes From a Russian American
Marilyn Garson
If the Gaza Blockade is Bad, Does That Make Hamas Good?
Sean Posey
Declinism Rising: An Interview with Morris Berman  
Jack Dresser
America’s Secret War on Yemen
Howard Lisnoff
The Use and Misuse of Charity: the Luck of the Draw in a Predatory System
Louis Proyect
In the Spirit of the Departed Munsees
Binoy Kampmark
Banning Alex Jones and Infowars
Mundher Al Adhami
On the Iraqi Protests, Now in Their Second Month 
Jeff Mackler
Nicaragua: Dynamics of an Interrupted Revolution
Robert Hunziker
Peter Wadhams, Professor Emeritus, Ocean Physics
David Macaray
Missouri Stands Tall on the Labor Front
Thomas Knapp
I Didn’t Join Facebook to “Feel Safe”
John Carroll Md
Are Haitian Doctors Burned Out?
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail