Pelosi, Schumer: Janus magnifies what’s at stake in Trump’s Supreme Court pick
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WASHINGTON — A day after the devastating anti-union Supreme Court Janus ruling, the Democratic House and Senate leaders, Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, other Dems and the leaders of AFSCME and the AFL-CIO on Thursday used the defeat to frame the case to elect Democrats in November.
The punch the government employee unions took in the 5-4 opinion in the Illinois case launched by GOP Gov. Bruce Rauner – Janus v AFSCME Council 31 – was expected by organized labor once Trump appointee Justice Neil Gorsuch joined the court last year.
A few hours after the Janus decision Justice Anthony Kennedy announced his retirement in July, giving President Donald Trump his second vacancy to fill.
The two storylines – the blow to unions and Trump’s upcoming Supreme Court appointment – by Thursday fused together when it comes to the 2018 mid-term politics. Janus magnifies what’s at stake in Trump’s next Supreme Court pick.
Kennedy has been the key swing vote on the nine-member court. He sided with conservatives on the Gore/Bush presidential recount and the Citizens United campaign finance case. He lined up with the liberals on abortion and same-sex marriage.
Trump does not want to pick a nominee who may turn out to be a switch hitter. He is hunting for the youngest most reliable conservative judge he can find to elevate to the Supreme Court. Trump wants to trade up from Kennedy.
At a press conference in the Capitol, Schumer, the Senate Minority Leader reflecting about Janus said, “What happened in the Supreme Court shows why we must not have another hard-right Supreme Court nominee who will not follow precedent and [will] put their own ideological stamp on issue after issue.”
The Supreme Court usually sticks to its own precedents. With the backing of Gorsuch, who provided the deciding vote, the justices overturned Abood v. Detroit Board of Education. Abood, now legal history, had been established law since 1977.
Until Wednesday, public employee unions could, without violating First Amendment free speech rights, collect “fair share” or “agency fees” from government workers who chose not to join the union. The fees were to cover expenses – not political spending – since the unions have a legal obligation to represent all workers.
“Janus illustrates that and should be a clarion call to working people to make sure that another nominee who will do that …. will move to remove even more workers rights,” Schumer said.
“We will fight it all the way, as we will fight as hard as we can to undo Janus with the legislation we’re introducing today,” Schumer said.
The Democratic legislation would strengthen collective bargaining laws and the rights of workers to organize in states that throw up obstacles. AFSCME President Lee Saunders and AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka were at the presser along with a SEIU representative. The unions are aligned with Democrats.
With the House and Senate and White House in GOP hands, those Dem House and Senate bills are going nowhere. That’s not the point. Democrats want to show what policy would be like if they were in control.
Pelosi, the House Democratic leader, said, with Janus, “the Supreme Court became the Supreme Corp., short for corporation. They are the handmaiden of corporate America. They are there to undermine workers in our country.”
The Janus loss was so anticipated, that earlier in the week the House Democratic Policy and Communications Committee – a co-chair is Rep. Cheri Bustos, D-Ill., – scheduled a “message meeting” on Thursday morning to provide, according to a memo distributed to Dem members, “overall messaging guidance” with government union officials weighing in.
With the Janus win and the Kennedy retirement, control of the Supreme Court jumps to the front burner as an issue in the 2018 elections and as a major factor when Trump seeks another term in 2020.
DISCLOSURE: Some unions have ownership stakes in Sun-Times Media, including the Chicago Federation of Labor; Operating Engineers Local 150; SEIU Healthcare Illinois-Indiana and SEIU Local 1.