FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

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

March 21, 2019
Daniel Warner
And Now Algeria
Renee Parsons
The Supreme Court and Dual Citizenship
Eric Draitser
On Ilhan Omar, Assad Fetishism, and the Danger of Red-Brown “Anti-Imperialism”
Elizabeth Keyes
Broadway’s “Hamilton” and the Willing Suspension of Reality-Based Moral Consciousness
David Underhill
Optional Fatherhood Liberates Christians From Abortion Jihad
Nick Pemberton
Is Kamala Harris the Centrist We Need?
Dean Baker
The Wall Street Bailouts, Bernie and the Washington Post
Russell Mokhiber
The Boeing Blackout
William Astore
America’s Senior Generals Find No Exits From Endless War
Jeff Hauser – Eleanor Eagan
Boeing Debacle Shows Need to Investigate Trump-era Corruption
Ramzy Baroud
Uniting Fatah, Not Palestinians: The Dubious Role of Mohammed Shtayyeh
Nick Licata
All Southern States are Not the Same: Mississippi’s Challenge
Jesse Jackson
Trump’s Sly Encouragement of Lawless Violence
Cesar Chelala
Public Health Challenges in Latin America and the Caribbean
March 20, 2019
T.J. Coles
Countdown to “Full Spectrum Dominance”
W. T. Whitney
Re-Targeting Cuba: Why Title III of U.S. Helms-Burton Act will be a Horror Show
Kenneth Surin
Ukania’s Great Privatization Heist
Howard Lisnoff
“Say It Ain’t So, Joe:” the Latest Neoliberal from the War and Wall Street Party
Walter Clemens
Jailed Birds of a Feather May Sing Together
George Ochenski
Failing Students on Climate Change
Cesar Chelala
The Sweet Smell of Madeleine
Binoy Kampmark
Global Kids Strike
Nicky Reid
Where Have All the Flowers Gone?: Requiem for a Fictional Party
Elliot Sperber
Empedocles and You and Me 
March 19, 2019
Paul Street
Socialism Curiously Trumps Fascism in U.S. Political Threat Reporting
Jonah Raskin
Guy Standing on Anxiety, Anger and Alienation: an Interview About “The Precariat”
Patrick Cockburn
The Brutal Legacy of Bloody Sunday is a Powerful Warning to Those Hoping to Save Brexit
Robert Fisk
Turning Algeria Into a Necrocracy
John Steppling
Day of Wrath
Robin Philpot
Truth, Freedom and Peace Will Prevail in Rwanda
Victor Grossman
Women Marchers and Absentees
Binoy Kampmark
The Dangers of Values: Brenton Tarrant, Fraser Anning and the Christchurch Shootings
Jeff Sher
Let Big Pharma Build the Wall
Jimmy Centeno
Venezuela Beneath the Skin of Imperialism
Jeffrey Sommers – Christopher Fons
Scott Walker’s Failure, Progressive Wisconsin’s Win: Milwaukee’s 2020 Democratic Party Convention
Steve Early
Time for Change at NewsGuild?
March 18, 2019
Scott Poynting
Terrorism Has No Religion
Ipek S. Burnett
Black Lives on Trial
John Feffer
The World’s Most Dangerous Divide
Paul Cochrane
On the Ground in Venezuela vs. the Media Spectacle
Dean Baker
The Fed and the 3.8 Percent Unemployment Rate
Thomas Knapp
Social Media Companies “Struggle” to Help Censors Keep us in the Dark
Binoy Kampmark
Death in New Zealand: The Christchurch Shootings
Mark Weisbrot
The Reality Behind Trump’s Venezuela Regime Change Coalition
Weekend Edition
March 15, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Andrew Levine
Is Ilhan Omar Wrong…About Anything?
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail