Skewing The Judiciary, Skewering Workers

By now, you’ve probably heard and read something about the Communications Workers’ Democracy Crusade and its goals. One of them is to end the tyranny of the minority in the U.S. Senate, by curbing or eliminating filibusters.
The Senate Republicans have used hundreds of filibusters in the last four years to strangle pro-worker legislation – notably the Employee Free Choice Act and pay equity legislation – and to halt Obama administration nominees for key agencies, including the National Labor Relations Board.
But it’s not just the NLRB that’s been hamstrung by Republican talkathons, which left it without a legally confirmed majority. It’s the federal judiciary, too.
And that’s important to workers, because in many cases, their fate and their rights rest in the hands of the black-robed jurists.
The GOP has filibustered so many Obama judicial nominees, even those whom Republican senators sponsor, that there are 82 vacancies in the courts. Lack of judges slows down cases. Justice delayed is justice denied, after all.
The lack of judges also leaves federal courts heavily tilted towards the Right and against workers. That’s because Republican presidents — Ronald Reagan and both Bushes – named most current judges. Democratic Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama had little chance to counter that by naming judges who would be more just.
We were reminded of the harm that befalls workers in such cases by a story in this month’s Graphic Communicator, the newspaper of the Graphic Communications Conference/Teamsters, the former Graphic Communications International Union.
Briefly, it said that GCC/IBT attorneys and leaders decided, very reluctantly after a 6-year fight, “not to challenge a federal court’s ruling against the journalists” at the Santa Barbara News-Press “who were terminated after joining the union.”
The story went on to say that GCC President George Tedeschi decided not to appeal the case to the U.S. Supreme Court because the majority of its justices are hostile to labor and a ruling there could “set a dangerous precedent that would make it difficult for workers to organize.” (GOP presidents named five of the nine justices.)
But it isn’t just the Supreme Court. The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, which handles most NLRB/workers rights cases, had ruled against the union.
And it was those D.C. judges, all of them GOP appointees, who issued the outrageous ruling that upset the union. Before that, the NLRB had ruled that News-Press publisher Wendy McCaw blatantly broke labor law through illegal interrogation, spying and firing of workers who organized to form a union, with GCC, at the paper.
The GOP-named appeals court judges agreed with McCaw’s “allegations” – we would call them crazy claims – that the newspaper’s reporters, by unionizing, were trying “to seize control of the content of the paper” and that reporters demanded “it adhere to journalistic professional norms as part of their employment conditions.”
The appeals judges agreed with McCaw’s allegation that the reporters, by unionizing, were violating her constitutional rights, as the paper’s publisher, to freedom
of the press, guaranteed by the 1st Amendment. The judges voted for her.
To say her claim is absurd is putting it mildly.
But what does all this have to do with filibusters?
The answer is that federal judges, on GOP-stacked courts, issue similar pro-boss rulings nationwide. When judges aren’t saying workers violate the publisher’s constitutional rights by organizing, they’re saying workers’ pension plan trustees can’t sue investment firms for lying about the quality of mortgage-backed securities. Other jurists rule workers with civil rights complaints lack a leg to stand on, or that a union representation election could harm an airline that filed for bankruptcy, and on and on.
All that paints a picture of a skewed judiciary skewering workers from the bench.
Obama can do little if anything about it, because the Senate GOP filibusters his judicial nominees. In doing so, the GOP gains its goal of denying justice, because the courts are short-staffed, and the jurists already there have a Republican/boss bias.
Fix The Senate Now, a coalition of 73 groups that CWA helped launch, just posted another online petition demanding filibuster reform. They’re aiming for 100,000 signatures – and citing the NLRB and judicial vacancies as good reasons to sign.
Justice delayed is justice denied. Justice skewed equals workers skewered. That deadly combination is just another reason to climb aboard the democracy crusade.


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