This week the U.S. Senate is holding hearings on Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. This is the first step in the Senate’s process of deciding whether or not Kavanaugh should ultimately serve as a Supreme Court Justice. While the issues covered in the hearing are wide-ranging, our focus is on the workplace implications of past and future Supreme Court decisions that aren’t often part of the news cycle.
Here are five things working people should know:
- The Supreme Court is the highest tribunal in the nation for all cases and controversies arising under the Constitution or U.S. law. The court weighs in on issues that impact us at the bargaining table, from our right to have unions to the issues we negotiate over.
- Our union has been involved – directly or indirectly – with many cases heard by the Supreme Court. For instance, in 1960, a series of three cases known as the Steelworkers Trilogy established principles for arbitration. These influential cases are still cited today as we fight for our members.
- One Chief Justice and eight Associate Justices make up the court. When a vacancy arises, the President nominates new Justices and the Senate confirms or rejects the nominee. The current opening resulted from the retirement of Justice Kennedy. This is President Trump’s second opportunity to fill a seat on the Supreme Court.
- Rulings can have major implications. For instance, the court recently took an anti-union stance in Janus v. AFSCME. As a result, non-members no longer have to contribute towards negotiating or maintaining the contract they benefit from. This can weaken unions and their members’ ability to fight for a good contract. Some of the same types of billionaire-backed organizations that funded the case are now targeting public employees and urging them to leave their unions. This case directly impacts our Steelworker members working for government entities and indirectly impacts us all.
- Justices serve for life, making the decision over nominees a very big deal.