Schumer calls Janus decision a “gut punch” and a “despicable decision” based “on a flimsy, almost made-up First Amendment justification…’
(Ben Sellers, Liberty Headlines) In the wake of two game-changing announcements from the U.S. Supreme Court that will directly impact the political sphere, Democrats scrambled to respond on Thursday.
Minority leaders Sen. Charles Schumer and Rep. Nancy Pelosi teamed with five other congressmen and three labor-union bosses for a press conference to react to both the landmark reversal in Janus vs. American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees and the retirement of Justice Anthony Kennedy.
The Janus decision, delivered Wednesday by Justice Samuel Alito, found that unions’ collecting compulsory ‘fair share’ dues from public-sector employees was a violation of the workers’ fundamental free-speech rights.
It struck down the precedent set in 1977’s Abood vs. Detroit Board of Education, through which unions could collect up to 80 percent in “agency fees” from government workers, even if they declined to join for political or other reasons.
“[W]e recognize the importance of following precedent unless there are strong reasons for not doing so. But there are very strong reasons in this case,” Wednesday’s opinion said, citing abuses in the monopolistic collective-bargaining process.
At the Democrats’ press conference, Schumer fired back by calling the decision a “gut punch” and a “despicable decision” that was based “on a flimsy, almost made-up First Amendment justification.”
With no trace of irony, even though the Janusruling overturned an existing court decision, Schumer decried what he saw as judicial activism from the bench’s originalist wing.
“The golden age of America was when America was unionized … but now the hard right wants to take it away,” Schumer said. “They know they could never pass this stuff, even in a conservative House and Senate, and so they use the one elected body—the one non-elected body—the Supreme Court.”
The press conference was intended to announce the introduction of a new bill, Public Service Freedom to Negotiate Act, sponsored by Hawaii Sen. Mazie Hirono and Pennsylvania Rep. Matt Cartwright.
Joining the bill’s sponsors and supporters were labor representatives including AFSCME President Lee Saunders and AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka.
A release from Schumer’s office stated that the bill aimed “to ensure that public sector employees across the country are able to form and join a union and enter into a written contract with employers. The bill also reaffirms that it is policy of the United States to encourage collective bargaining.”
It remained unclear what the legislation would do to directly address the Janusruling, which dealt only with the rights of non-union public servants to opt out of such an arrangement.
But that decision likely will require some of the most steadfast Democratic lobbying institutions to scale back their operations.
A New York Times article estimated that teachers’ unions could stand to lose up to a third of their memberships and funding in states that have no pre-existing right-to-work laws.
The National Education Association, the largest of the teachers’ unions, expected to lose up to 200,000 members and $28 million from its $366 million annual budget, the article said.
However, it added that NEA president Lily Eskelsen García did not plan to curb political activities, such as voter mobilization.
In a week in which her California House of Representatives colleague, Maxine Waters, received an ethics complaint for telling followers to “push back” aggressively against Trump cabinet members, erstwhile House Speaker Pelosi seemed in her remarks on Thursday to paint an equivalency between the left’s recent rhetoric and the Supreme Court decision.
“Yesterday, [the court] did violence to our democracy by trying to diminish the voices of working people,” she said.
Several of those at the podium, including Washington Sen. Patty Murray, framed their remarks by weighing in on the retirement of Justice Anthony Kennedy.
Kennedy, the longest-serving jurist on the court and last remaining Reagan appointee, was considered the swing vote on issues such as abortion and gay marriage.
“Right now, there are people who across this country who are deeply and rightly worried about how Justice Kennedy’s retirement affects their day-to-day lives,” Murray said. “They’re gonna have questions for this Trump administration and every Republican who decides the people don’t need a voice now that President Trump is in charge after blocking President Obama’s qualified nominee.”
Murray and others hoped to forestall the next appointment until after the midterm elections, referencing Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s previous refusal to vote in an election year on Merrick Garland to replace the late Antonin Scalia.
Justice Kennedy himself was appointed in an election year, 1988, after a contentious, partisan confirmation battle led by Massachusetts Sen. Edward Kennedy (no relation) successfully blocked Reagan’s first nominee, Robert Bork.
A second choice, Douglas Ginsburg, withdrew due to past marijuana use.
Despite Schumer’s promises to “fight it all the way,” a vote prior to the November elections would almost assuredly succeed due to the precedent established during the confirmation of Trump’s first Supreme Court appointment, Justice Neil Gorsuch.
After Democrats attempted to block Gorsuch, McConnell forced a rules change that required only a simple majority.
The move followed in the footsteps of his predecessor, Nevada Sen. Harry Reid, who initiated the so-called nuclear option to override filibusters of Obama appointees.