Two Big Unions, Six Union Groups Oppose Gorsuch Nod for High Court

WASHINGTON—Citing his record in labor, civil rights, womens’ rights, and related cases, two big unions — the Communications Workers and the National Education Association — and six AFL-CIO constituency groups now formally oppose Republican President Donald Trump’s nomination of federal appellate judge Neil Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Besides CWA and NEA, the A. Philip Randolph Institute, the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists, the Coalition of Labor Union Women, the Asian-Pacific American Labor Alliance, Pride at Work and Labor’s Council for Latin American Advancement were among the 107 groups that signed the joint anti-Gorsuch letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The letter cites specific Gorsuch court decisions and dissents against workers, plus his writing in a book against the right to choice, as reasons for senators to reject his nomination.

The Senate panel’s hearings on the nomination are scheduled for March 20-23.

The Leadership Conference for Civil and Human Rights, which unions have long supported, crafted the letter. Other notable signers included the National Organization for Women, 9to5 and the National Partnership for Women and Families. The Democracy Initiative, which CWA’s former president, Larry Cohen, founded, also signed the letter.

Before the letter, CWA President Chris Shelton had already announced his union’s opposition to Gorsuch. He said CWA will urge senators to reject him. NEA President Lily Eskelsen-Garcia said her union, the largest in the U.S., is also concerned about his record.

“CWA opposes the nomination of Judge Gorsuch and calls on members of the U.S. Senate to do everything necessary to block this selection,” Shelton said.

Shelton cited Gorsuch’s “record of aligning with corporate interests,” and his criticisms of “remarkable powers” of “worker protection agencies…whose enforcement mechanisms are already too weak to be effective.”

Gorsuch “has argued that protecting corporations from litigation is more important than protecting investors from being cheated. He seems predisposed to favor the ‘big guy’ over the ‘little guy.’  That’s not the kind of court America needs,” Shelton said.

“As educators, we have concerns about Judge Gorsuch’s record,” Eskelsen-Garcia said. “He ruled against students with disabilities who seek public education, and has consistently sided with big business at the expense of working Americans. We call on the Senate to diligently perform its duty to thoroughly vet the nominee to ensure the Supreme Court will protect all of us.” But the letter NEA signed goes farther, urging outright rejection.

That letter was also a lot more specific about Gorsuch’s ideology. It calls him “a judge with an agenda.”

“His frequent dissents and concurrences show he is out of the mainstream of legal thought and unwilling to accept” legal precedents and adherence to prior decisions “when they dictate results he disfavors,” the letter says.

“If confirmed…Judge Gorsuch would tip the balance” on the High Court “in a direction that would undermine many of our core rights and legal protections. He lacks the impartiality and independence the American people expect and deserve from the federal bench.”

The letter includes cases where Gorsuch ruled for corporations and against workers:

• TransAm trucking of Colorado fired tractor-trailer driver Alphonse Maddin after Maddin had to pull his rig off the road in Illinois in subzero weather because the trailer’s brakes froze up. Maddin called a dispatcher for repair, but when no help came for three hours, and with a non-working heater, Maddin detached the cab and drove to a heated service station. TransAm fired Maddin. A Labor Department administrative law judge later reinstated him.

The ALJ said TransAm broke whistleblower protections by retaliating against Maddin for reporting the frozen brakes and for refusing to drive the rig “in an evidently hazardous man-ner.” Appellate courts and the Supreme Court backed the ALJ and Maddin. Gorsuch didn’t. He wrote Maddin “should have followed orders even at the risk of serious injury,” the letter says.

• “In NLRB v. Community Health Services, Judge Gorsuch again dissented from a majority opinion” that awarded 13 respiratory department workers in the Mimbres Nursing Home, represented by the Steelworkers, $105,000 in back pay, the letter says. The nursing home broke labor law by cutting their hours. It wanted to deduct from back pay the money workers earned in “interim employment.” The majority ruled for the workers. Gorsuch didn’t.

“The NLRB…effectively seeks to adopt a new rule governing calculation of back pay in cases where a collective bargaining employer unlawfully reduces the hours of unionized employees,” Gorsuch retorted. The board, he contended, “seeks to make new law unlawfully.”

• Gorsuch backed the company in a 2011 case involving a worker who was fatally electrocuted in Fort Lupton, Colo. The firm, Compass Environmental, didn’t train him in proper safety procedures at the time of the job in early 2006. The Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission upheld OSHA’s fine against Compass $5,500 for lack of training.

“Judge Gorsuch issued a dissent and voted to throw the case out of court because he didn’t believe the employer was negligent,” the letter to the senators notes. The dissent itself shows Gorsuch declared the federal commission presented no proof of company negligence.

Gorsuch’s “recurrent dissents in workers’ rights cases suggest a refusal to follow binding case law when it leads to results that favor workers rather than businesses and employers,” the letter notes.

Source: PAI