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September 2018

The Front Line: Politics & Jobs
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Supreme Court Nominee's Track Record:
Corporations Win, Workers Lose

Judge Brett Kavanaugh has been ruling against workers' rights from the federal bench for more than a decade, notably deciding against an IBEW local in 2016 and siding in an earlier case with Donald Trump to crush a casino organizing drive.

Now nominated by President Trump to sit on the U.S. Supreme Court, Kavanaugh would fortify the court's big-business, anti-worker majority for years to come, squarely positioning all three branches of government against the rights and economic security of working people.

"Judge Kavanaugh has run roughshod over workers his entire career," International President Lonnie R. Stephenson said. "A seat on the Supreme Court would give him the ultimate power to rule against unions, against job safety, against affordable health care for people with pre-existing conditions — in short, against justice, fairness and decency whenever and wherever they conflict with the interests of the rich and powerful."

In the casino case, Kavanaugh was one of three Republican-appointed judges who voted unanimously to set aside an NLRB order requiring one of Trump's Atlantic City properties to bargain with the United Auto Workers. Similarly, he sided with billionaire GOP donor Sheldon Adelson in a labor dispute at the Venetian hotel in Las Vegas.

"Kavanaugh, along with [Justices] Thomas, Alito, Gorsuch — and Roberts along for the ride — will comprise the most radical, anti-labor-law Supreme Court in my lifetime," University of Wyoming law professor Michael Duff, a former National Labor Relations Board attorney, told Bloomberg.

Kavanaugh was nominated July 9 to fill the seat of retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy, who was considered the court's swing vote in many 5-4 decisions.

Those include the devastating Janus v. AFSCME decision in June, allowing public workers to stop paying the fees that make it possible for unions to negotiate contracts, handle grievances and otherwise fight for all members of a bargaining unit.

Kavanaugh clerked for Kennedy in the early 1990s and later served in George W. Bush's White House. He was appointed to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals in 2006.

His history on the federal bench is so solidly weighted in favor of corporate interests and deregulation that a leaked document shows the Trump administration urging industry lobbyists to pressure senators to confirm him.

The White House boasts to the business community in the memo that "Kavanaugh has overruled federal regulators 75 times on cases involving clean air, consumer protections, net neutrality and other issues," Politico reported.

In the Venetian case, the AFL-CIO said Kavanaugh reversed an NLRB ruling "that the hotel engaged in unfair labor practices when it requested police officers to issue criminal citations to union demonstrators who were legally protesting."

He attacked workers' free speech rights again in 2016, ruling for Verizon against Springfield, Mass., Local 2324.

The NLRB had ruled that workers had the right to display signs in their personal vehicles in the company parking lot that simply said, "Verizon, Honor Our Existing Contract." Kavanaugh decided the signs constituted an illegal picket in violation of the union contract.

He also has argued in favor of allowing the Secretary of Defense to abolish collective-bargaining rights, dissented from a majority opinion upholding a safety citation against SeaWorld after the death of a trainer and declared the structure of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau unconstitutional, an attempt to put corporate foxes in charge of the henhouse.

Though that decision was overturned, the Trump administration has effectively dissolved the agency, a watchdog established after the Great Recession to protect Americans from unscrupulous banking and investment practices.

Signaling its ongoing efforts to destroy Obamacare, the White House assigned pharmaceuticals lobbyist and former Republican Sen. John Kyl to move Kavanaugh through the confirmation process.

"Why would the White House put the nomination battle in the hands of a man who famously mocked the Affordable Care Act's requirement that health insurance cover maternal health by saying 'I don't need maternity care' — and who as recently as last year was a lobbyist for those fighting to keep drug prices high?" Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank asked. "Now it makes sense."

For workers, the Janus ruling and Kavanaugh's nomination are a one-two punch.

"Five Republican justices struck a blow against unions," UC Berkeley law school dean Erwin Chemerinsky said, writing about Janus in The Sacramento Bee. "They did so in a way that disrupts tens of thousands of contracts. They increased the vulnerability of government employees, many of whom will see a decrease in wages and working conditions as a result of this decision in the years ahead. Whether you agree or disagree with the court, it must be called judicial activism."

It's one more reason why November's midterm elections are so critical, Stephenson said.

"Restoring a pro-worker majority in both houses of Congress has never been more urgent," he said. "Right now, all we can do — and must do — to fight Judge Kavanaugh's nomination is call our senators, and call and call again, to make the case that a Supreme Court majority cemented against working Americans isn't good for anyone.

"We know that winning this one is a long shot. But in November we have the chance to shift the balance of power. Our votes can ensure that our voice is heard in the next confirmation hearing, and all the other coming fights in Congress and statehouses that threaten our rights and our future."


Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, whose hostility toward unions, workers and consumers has been a hallmark of his years on the federal bench, with Vice President Mike Pence at the U.S. Capitol.

IBEW Members Help Kill Right-to-Work in Missouri

In a resounding victory for the IBEW and working families, Missouri voters overwhelmingly rejected a right-to-work law on Aug. 7 that had been passed by the GOP-controlled state Legislature and signed by former Gov. Eric Greitens.

More than 67 percent voted "no" on Proposition A, which repealed the law passed in February 2017. The state's constitution allows for a referendum on any legislation passed by the General Assembly if approximately 100,000 voters sign petitions requesting one. Right-to-work opponents gathered more than three times that, setting up August's election.

"Missourians reaffirmed what we've known for a long time," said International President Lonnie R. Stephenson, who visited the Show-Me State and assisted with get-out-the vote push. "Right-to-work is bad news for all working Americans, not just union members. That's the message you get when you put this issue in the hands of the people instead of the politicians.

"I am so proud of our members in Missouri and throughout the nation who helped make this a reality. It's a powerful reminder that when we work together, we achieve great things."

St. Louis Local 1 Business Manager Frank Jacobs noted the Legislature moved the vote up to the August primary from November because it thought it would help Proposition A's chances of passing. Instead, it was voted down in 99 of the state's 114 counties, most of which are dominated by Republican politicians. IBEW local unions worked long hours with their allies to help defeat the law.

"In our campaign, we never made it a Republican or Democrat issue," Jacobs said. "We never made it a union versus nonunion issue. We made it about the working men and women in the state of Missouri and what's best for them."

Right-to-work laws allow employees covered by a collectively-bargained contract to enjoy its benefits without paying their fair share to cover its costs. They also suppress wages. Missouri workers are paid at a higher rate than six bordering states with right-to-work laws.

The fight captured the attention of working people across the country, many of whom took part in phone-banking operations to get out the vote. They also put their money where their mouth was. Pro-corporate organizations like the Chamber of Commerce, which are accustomed to having a financial advantage, complained about not having as many resources as right-to-work opponents.

AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Liz Shuler, a member of Portland, Ore., Local 125, traveled to the state several times and was in Kansas City during the vote.

"The victory in Missouri follows a national wave of inspiring activism that is leading to life-changing collective bargaining agreements and electoral triumphs that remind America the path to power runs through the labor movement," AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said.

Missouri political director Rudy Chavez, a former Kansas City Local 124 president, said the win will be even more significant if the momentum continues and voters vote out politicians who supported right-to-work and other measures that harm working families. Some Republican politicians have said they will bring right-to-work up again when the Legislature reconvenes in January.

"We voted our pocketbooks," Chavez said. "We need to remember in November."


International President Lonnie R. Stephenson and St. Louis Local 1 Business Manager Frank Jacobs knocked on doors the weekend before Missouri voters' resounding rejection of right-to-work.