The Roberts Court Sides With Corporations And CEOs Over Average Citizens
The Supreme Court’s final decisions of the term came today, and in the now established tradition of the Roberts Court, they strike another blow to working Americans. In Harris v. Quinn, the five conservative justices undermined public sector unions by barring homecare workers in Illinois from collecting fair share fees to ensure that everyone shares in the cost of bargaining. And in the closely watched Hobby Lobby case, the same five male justices gave unprecedented power to for-profit employers to make health care decisions for their female employees.
Both rulings were handed down from a split court along ideological lines. The majority opinions for both were authored by Justice Samuel Alito, who is considered to be the most business-friendly justice ever; number two is his colleague, Chief Justice John Roberts.
Here’s a little chart that demonstrates how business interests are racking up the Supreme Court wins in the Roberts Court more than ever before:
Let’s go through each case where the court chose to trample on the rights of the people at the expense of the powerful:
Harris v. Quinn
Public sector unions bargain on behalf of all of their workers — even if a particular worker does not belong to the union. Typically, non-members pay a fair share fee to ensure all employees, regardless of whether they are members of the union, receive the collectively bargained-for benefits. In Harris v. Quinn, the Roberts court ruled 5-4 that some Illinois home-care workers who did not want to join the union but still saw their wages rise thanks to collective bargaining are exempt from having to pay those fees. The decision weakens the ability for public sector unions to bargain on behalf of their workers. When staffing and safety decisions are taken out of the hands of the first responders that know them best and put into the hands of politicians and corporate CEOs, that makes us all less safe.
The court did not go as far as to entirely agree with the anti-union plaintiffs; the plaintiffs sought to essentially end unions as we know them by arguing that it is unconstitutional to require any non-union members to pay to reimburse unions that bargain on their behalf. By contradicting previous rulings and acting in an activist manner, however, the court left the door open to future rulings that further weaken unions, hurt middle class workers and put more power in the hands of corporations and CEOs.
That makes it more important than ever for working Americans to stand up like they have at fast-food strikes around the country and negotiate for the rights, freedom and dignity they deserve. A single court ruling doesn’t negate our obligation to keep fighting to restore the American middle class.
Burwell v. Hobby Lobby
Bosses should not be able to interfere with a woman’s access to affordable birth control. Period. But today, five men sitting on the Supreme Court decided that they do. The majority ruled 5-4 that owners of for-profit, secular businesses who have religious objections to birth control may defy federal rules requiring that they include contraceptive care in their employees’ health plans because it violates the employer’s religious liberty rights.
The decision is an example of judicial activism that benefits corporations at its worst. Think Progress Justice Editor Ian Millhiser explains:
For many years, the Supreme Court struck a careful balance between protecting religious liberty and maintaining the rule of law in a pluralistic society. Religious people enjoy a robust right to practice their own faith and to act according to the dictates of their own conscience, but they could not wield religious liberty claims as a sword to cut away the legal rights of others. This was especially true in the business context. As the Supreme Court held in United States v. Lee, “[w]hen followers of a particular sect enter into commercial activity as a matter of choice, the limits they accept on their own conduct as a matter of conscience and faith are not to be superimposed on the statutory schemes which are binding on others in that activity.”
With Monday’s decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, however, this careful balance has been upended. …The rights of the employer now trump the rights of the employee.
Let us clarify: Religious liberty is the right to practice religion as you wish and the freedom to not have religion imposed on you by others, especially corporations.
The reality of the decision is that while it was celebrated on the right as protecting people of faith, it actually hurts them: a substantial majority of almost every major U.S. Christian group support the idea that corporations like Hobby Lobby should be required to provide employees with healthcare plans that cover contraception and birth control at no cost. Moreover, Julia K. Stronks, an evangelical Christian and political science professor at Whitworth University, points out the irony that “although the owners of these for-profit corporations oppose the contraceptive requirement because of their pro-life religious beliefs, the requirement they oppose will dramatically reduce abortions.”
There is no doubting the slippery slope of the Hobby Lobby case when it comes to businesses using religious liberty to deny any number of rights to individuals. We must being to work now to re-establish a meaningful and appropriate religious liberty in America.
BOTTOM LINE: Today’s Supreme Court rulings from five conservative justices use judicial activism to benefit corporations and CEOs while hurting workers and women. The Roberts Court’s friendliness to corporate interests and the powerful at the expense of regular Americans is continues to be unprecedented, and it continues to be critical that progressives use every available avenue to fight back.