Union Leaders Oppose Gorsuch for Supreme Court

Mark Gruenberg

Mark Gruenberg Editor, Press Associates Union News

From the Teamsters to the Teachers to the AFL-CIO, the nation’s union leaders are lining up against Neil Gorsuch.

And so are at least two dozen Democratic senators so far.

But whether the Senate’s ruling Republicans will listen to either group is up in the air, in their rush to confirm GOP President Donald Trump’s nomination of Gorsuch, the federal appellate court judge from Denver, to the U.S. Supreme Court’s vacant seat.

The Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to vote on Gorsuch during the week of April 3. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kent., wants a full Senate vote by April 7. He may wind up changing the rules to need only a simple majority, 51, to succeed. He now needs 60.

That leaves Gorsuch foes, including unions, little time to mobilize against him.

The Gorsuch nomination is important to workers because the High Court, now virtually tied 4-4 between its GOP-named and Democratic-named justices, is the last word on key workers cases. Notably that tie occurred last year, after Justice Antonin Scalia died, on a case that made virtually every state and local government worker a “free rider” on dues and fees.

Union leaders are concerned because Gorsuch’s past rulings put him squarely in the camp of corporations and against workers. The Communications Workers, one of the outside groups that testified during the Senate panel’s Gorsuch hearings, made the same point. The union leaders want members to contact senators to urge anti-Gorsuch votes:

Teamsters President Jim Hoffa: “It appears Judge Gorsuch has often sided with corporations over workers in a number of cases. For example Judge Gorsuch has been critical in decisions of the authority of the National Labor Relations Board and the Occupational Safetyаand Health Review Commission. He also ruled against Teamster members who have been unlawfully locked-out by their employer. These decisions, and numerous others, raise serious concerns about his nomination.

“The next justice will certainly be called upon to decide the collective bargaining fate of public employees, including the more than 250,000 Teamsters working in the public sector. Such workers have repeatedly come under fire in the courts, most recently as part of the Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association case the court heard last year,” which produced the 4-4 tie after Scalia died, Hoffa noted.

“These efforts are a blatant attempt to weaken unions and make it more difficult for public employees to join together to make sure that they have everything they need to do the best jobs they can when serving the citizens of this country. As Judge Gorsuch is often compared to former Justice Scalia as a ‘strict constitutionalist,’ the union is concerned that his confirmation could deal a serious blow to worker rights. 

AFSCME President Lee Saunders: “Neil Gorsuch...doesn’t share our values. He believes corporations are people, and that is why I urge you to call your senators to oppose his confirmation.

Gorsuch supported a case that ruled corporations are ‘persons’ and therefore could deny vital health care coverage to the company’s employees based on the corporate owners personal religious views.

“In another case, Gorsuch ruled that a truck driver whose life was in danger while stranded in subzero temperatures should be fired because he disobeyed his employers order to stay put despite life-threatening conditions. These are just some examples of how Neil Gorsuch would further tilt the scales of justice against working people.

“Donald Trump ran on a promise to lift up the forgotten man and woman, but his Supreme Court nominee believes the rights of corporations and Wall Street supersede ours. We need a Supreme Court justice who will make sure the Constitution protects all Americans, not just the wealthy and powerful.” 

Steelworkers President Leo Gerard: “The fact that Gorsuch, born and bred a 1 percenter, decided this (truck driver’s) case and others for moneyed interests without a thought for the people injured as a result, disqualifies him for a seat on the nation’s highest court.”

National Nurses United Co-Presidents Deborah Burger and Jean Ross: “Despite Judge Gorsuch’s repeated assertions in his confirmation hearings that he is independent, not guided by party or politics but by devotion to the law, NNU concluded he is a man driven by ideology,” they wrote to the Judiciary Committee. “Judge Gorsuch is not fit to serve on the highest court of the land and the Senate should reject his nomination.”

Gorsuch’s rulings and legal opinions show he “has been consistently dismissive of Americans’ rights to meaningful equality and workplace justice. He has cultivated a jurisprudence that promotes business interests at the expense of the average American.”

The two also fault Gorsuch for rulings showing “workers' rights should be given very narrow readings so that business interests can rule the day. And” Gorsuch wrote that “federal judges should be able to substitute their ideology for actual agency expertise, to minimize the effect of federal laws that protect the average American.” 

“In NLRB v. Community Health Services, Gorsuch dissented from a majority decision upholding back pay damages for workers whose federal rights were violated by their employer…And in a case involving Compass Environmental, Inc., Gorsuch opposed upholding a (federal) fine against a company that failed to adequately train a worker who was electrocuted.”

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka: “Judge Gorsuch does not seem to appreciate the issues and chal-lenges facing working families and the importance of upholding and enforcing our rights. His rulings to date raise very serious concerns about where he stands on issues like worker health and safety, equal opportunity in the workplace and the ability of agencies to adopt rules to protect workers’ rights.” (See Trumka letter in this edition.)   

Teachers President Randi Weingarten: “while Judge Gorsuch is amiable and intelligent, he has also shown himself to be an ideologue who repeatedly sides with corporations and powerful special interests over working people, consumers, students and women. Now, more than ever, we need an independent voice on the Supreme Court who respects, not rewrites, our constitutional values ofаfreedom, democracy and justice.”

National Education Association: The nation’s largest teachers union sent library paraprofessional Kym McIntosh from Blue Springs, Mo. to D.C. to lobby senators against Gorsuch, because the judge does not accord legally required services to disabled students. Some 64,000 NEA members have also called their senators on the union’s toll-free line, while 60,000 more signed an anti-Gorsuch petition.

“Judge Gorsuch’s rulings have been brutally against making it easier for these students to have a clearer path or an easier time getting an appropriate, accessible education,” said McIntosh. “I think that is completely backward.”

Service Employees President Mary Kay Henry: ““Even before he was nominated, Judge Gorsuch’s record spoke volumes about his utter disregard for the ability of working people to achieve justice. Look at the case of truck driver Alphonse Maddin, who nearly froze to death while waiting for his employer to fix his frozen brakes. Judge Gorsuch was the only one of seven judges who heard his case to side with the corporation, TransAm Trucking, for firing him when he sought shelter in the lethal, minus-27-degree conditions.” Gorsuch’s testimony shows “he isn’t the kind of judge who gives working people a fair shot at justice.”  

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Posted In: Allied Approaches

Union Matters

Labor Wins

From the AFL-CIO

On Tuesday, the labor movement drove historic wins for pro-worker candidates like Governor-Elect Andy Beshear in Kentucky and new legislative majorities in Virginia. Not only did union members come out to vote in droves, 270 union member candidates were elected to public office last night and counting. This adds to the total of more than 900 union members elected up and down the ballot in last year’s midterms, a product of the Union Member Candidate Program launched by the AFL-CIO just two years ago. The share of union members who won in the 2018 midterms is two-thirds. The program will continue through 2020 and beyond, electing even more union members to public office. 

“Our efforts recruiting, training and supporting labor candidates have led to the passage of pro-worker legislation from coast to coast and everywhere in between,” AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said.

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