By Ray Curry, UAW Secretary-Treasurer
This November, we’re going to have to do some hard work to make sure that going off to work every day means a decent living for our families.
That is, if your job pays your bills, provides you and your family with healthcare, paid sick leave, and paid time off; if it guarantees a voice for your rights and job safety that will be heard — if it works for you — you are going to have to go at it harder than ever to keep it that way. And if you’re one of the millions of hard-working Americans who aren’t making a living wage, have little or no healthcare or job protections, the stakes are even higher.
And tragically, we’re seeing in this unprecedented global health crisis what happens to working people who don’t have unions to stand up for them.
But we have an opportunity to stand together and make our voices heard. Our work in this election begins with knowing what you are voting for, what’s at stake, and then voting accordingly up and down the ballot.
The power behind the power
The task in front of us that we can’t fail at: Stopping the anti-union, anti-labor judiciary being put in place by an administration that consistently puts Corporate America first and working people last. And that administration and this Congress throws our middle-class existence, and all working people, into more and more peril with each new federal judge appointed.
Here is a thumbnail of what’s been going on. The last three years have been disastrous for working families, and by extension, our civil and human rights. More than 191 federal judges appointed (a record), and two Supreme Court Justices, all anti-union, anti- collective bargaining, slotted in to undermine labor whenever and wherever they get the chance. Most damaging are the appointments to the courts of appeal, the final say in most federal cases. In less than three years, 50 have been named to the bench.
These appointees across the judiciary have drawn three times more “no” votes in the Senate during their confirmation hearings than all confirmed judges in the 20th century combined.
But to no avail. A number of the judges were named before they had received a rating from the American Bar Association, only about 40% previously served as a judge. Three were deemed unqualified. Despite these disturbing facts, they were confirmed. These appointments, qualified or unqualified, unfit or untested alike, had one thing in common: a conservative agenda that backs a pro-corporate, anti-labor platform.
And all these judges align perfectly with the current National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), the government agency that enforces labor law as it relates to collective bargaining and unfair labor practice charges. This NLRB has been stacked with judges who have extremely anti-labor, anti-union records and consequently the agency has systematically rolled back workers’ rights to form unions or, in some instances, take part in their protected right to collectively bargain with their employers, hurting workers, their communities, and the economy itself.
Just plain hostile to workers
And they align just as perfectly with the administration’s nomination of Eugene Scalia for Secretary of Labor. Scalia, son of the late conservative Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia, was confirmed by the Senate last September. It is certainly fair to say that our new Secretary of Labor is utterly hostile to unions and labor.
The younger Scalia has spent a career in corporate law fighting for the interests of companies over workers, with clients ranging from Walmart to the major Wall Street banks seeking to avoid and evade post-crisis regulations. He has often been described this way by so many members of labor: “Eugene Scalia has spent his entire career making life more difficult and dangerous for working people. We opposed him in 2002 for Solicitor of Labor based on his anti-worker record, and his disdain for working people has worsened, not improved. His extreme views are in direct conflict with what America deserves from a secretary of labor.”
All of this at a time in our history when unions are viewed very favorably according to recent PEW Research findings, Business Insider national polling and a Gallup poll which said union support is at a five-decade high. Still, these anti-labor judges and justices have gone about their unpopular business with zeal.
In early 2018, the conservative stacked Supreme Court ruled in the Janus decision that public sector union fees violate non-member’s First Amendment rights, a decision made to weaken public sector bargaining rights. That same year, in the Reese vs. CNH case, a Supreme Court decision allowed an employer to unilaterally drop healthcare for retirees, a contract provision guaranteed them! The list goes on and on.
And while the Supreme Court gets the attention, it’s the lower courts that decide the bulk of the cases. For example, the now more conservative federal appeals court brought new life to executive orders that could make firing employees and weakening their union representation easier for federal agencies.
So, let’s get to work, workers. Take a look at the type of leaders we have that would say one thing to get elected and then do the exact opposite; who would put corporate dollars and stock gains ahead of the people who make it all possible.
Please do your homework. If you go off to work for a living every day, make sure you know who will vote on your side — and who won’t.
Together we can reverse a whole lot of anti-labor institutions and can start building back a justice system for all, one that safeguards and represents the backbone of this country, not just the wallets of the few.