A Sobering Reminder to Unions on the Critical Importance of Supreme Court Appointees

President Trump is looking for a surefire conservative for the Supreme Court. For all the escalating rancor, this round to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia could be the prelude to a more consequential battle. The possibility of a second Supreme Court vacancy in the near future is subtly affecting the strategy of the Republican Trump team in the final stages of selecting a candidate and of Democratic opponents girding for what could be years of political turmoil surrounding the composition of America’s highest court.

Scalia, who died last February, was a rigid conservative on social issues so Trump’s replacement would likely be a wash. But a Trump successor to either of the two eldest justices — liberal Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who will turn 84 in March, or centrist-conservative Anthony Kennedy, turning 81 in July — could truly transform the law in America.

How the Fate of Unions Fell Into The Hands of a Single Man

In Commonwealth v. Hunt, (1842), an American legal case in which the Massachusetts Supreme Court ruled that the common-law doctrine of criminal conspiracy did not apply to labor unions. Until then, workers’ attempts to establish closed shops had been subject to prosecution. Chief Justice Lemuel Shaw asserted, however, that trade unions were legal and that they had the right to strike or take other steps of peaceful coercion to raise wages and ban nonunion workers.


The case stemmed from a demand by the Boston Journeymen Bootmakers’ Society that an employer fire one of its members who had disobeyed the society’s rules. The employer, fearing a strike, complied, but the dismissed employee complained to the district attorney, who then drew an indictment charging the society with conspiracy. The Boston Municipal Court found the union guilty.

Justice Shaw, hearing the case on appeal, altered the traditional criteria for conspiracy by holding that the mere act of combining for some purpose was not illegal. Only those combinations intended “to accomplish some criminal or unlawful purpose, or to accomplish some purpose, not in itself criminal or unlawful, by criminal or unlawful means” could be prosecuted.

Shaw, in effect, legalized the American labor union movement by this decision.

Let’s hope that the inevitable Democratic show of force on the first nomination serves as a warning to Trump not to put up an uncompromising conservative for a more consequential opening.


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Tell Congress to Stop Sneak Attacks on Working People

Funding the government is one of the basic requirements of Congress. But as we too often see, the process consistently takes far longer than originally scheduled. The threat of shutting down the government and halting vital public services can spark a near panic.


Worsening this problem are “riders,” which are controversial, last-second provisions added to spending bills. Riders are provisions that would normally not pass on their own through the regular legislative process. The people who slip them into bills try to take advantage of the chaos of trying to pass a budget at the last minute.

Budget “riders” would help corporations, not working men and women.

In recent budget cycles, the Republican-controlled House and Senate have catered to big corporations by attempting to use riders to push through changes that would harm working families. The rider process allows them to avoid the public scrutiny that would ordinarily accompany these types of anti-worker policies.

These riders would do things like:

  • prevent the National Labor Relations Board from enforcing their own rules for free and fair union elections;
  • prohibit the enforcement of the Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces executive order, which would make contractors with serious records of civil rights, labor rights, safety or other violations comply with the law before being awarded a federal contract;
  • take away the DOL’s ability to make sure contractors pay the established minimum wage to certain seasonal recreation services employees;
  • stop the Department of Health and Human Services from instituting new prevention programs established by the Affordable Care Act – and eliminate the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

Fair union elections, safe workplaces, minimum wage enforcement and protecting the Affordable Care Act—these are issues that affect working people directly. And underhanded attempts to take away these things using riders cannot be tolerated.

The battle over the fiscal year 2017 budget is now fully underway in Congress, and we’re seeing these same tactics again.  Let Congress know that we are watching them, and that you want a clean budget – one WITHOUT riders that would harm working people.

Sign the Petition: Tell Congress to Pass a CLEAN Budget