By Robert A. Vella
At least for the next few months, the blatantly partisan U.S. Supreme Court probably won’t be inflicting any more damage upon ordinary Americans. However, its final two rulings to close out the current term – both narrowly decided by 5-4 votes – is sure to cause enduring pain.
In Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby, the five conservative justices dealt yet another blow to the Separation of Church and State by granting non-publicly traded for-profit corporations the authority to defy federal law on the basis of their owners’ religious beliefs. It should be noted that history is replete with examples of heinous crimes which were “justified” through religion including slavery, apartheid, ethnic cleansing, and genocide. Secular government is the only institutional barrier to such religiously sanctioned atrocities which the Roberts’ Court seems determined to destroy. Furthermore, the specific circumstances of this case clearly demonstrate the conservative majority’s eagerness to subordinate the rights of employees to the arbitrary whims of employers.
WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Monday that some corporations can hold religious objections that allow them to opt out of the new health law requirement that they cover contraceptives for women.
The justices’ 5-4 decision is the first time that the high court has ruled that profit-seeking businesses can hold religious views under federal law. And it means theadministration must search for a different way of providing free contraception to women who are covered under objecting companies’ health insurance plans.
In Harris v. Quinn, the Court also shot another arrow into the besieged heart of labor unions (and the future of collective bargaining) – perhaps the last staggering warrior still fighting for American workers against a tsunami of corporate power. How much longer their desperate struggle can be fought is anyone’s guess.
The Supreme Court reached into the living rooms of homebound people with disabilities today and weakened the institutional backbone of public sector unions. At the intersection of public service and private capital, the case Harris v. Quinn was ostensibly about the cost of union dues, but hinged on a legal theory that could ultimately cost the labor movement far more.
Today’s five-four decision pushed public sector unions a step closer toward death by attrition, by eroding their ability to finance themselves. The ruling specifically blocks unions from collecting mandatory dues from Medicaid-funded personal health aides in Illinois.
Though the decision was not as broad as labor groups had feared, it strikes hard at the concept of “fair share”—the idea that workers in a union shop be expected to contribute to the running of the union. The Court has previously upheld this concept on the premise that because everyone in the workplace benefits from the collectively bargained contract—including through negotiated wages, work rules, safety standards and benefits—financially supporting that representation should be mandatory.