| My last post at MLN looked at how the impact of the disastrous Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. FEC is being felt in Connecticut, with a single Super PAC spending more in the ten days leading up to the November 2012 election to defeat state senator Steve Cassano than Cassano spent in his entire campaign. But sadly that is hardly the only example of how right-wing judicial activism in federal courts is imperiling democracy, justice and fairness at the local level.
If you look at the recent decision by the DC Circuit of Appeals that invalidated President Obama's recess appointments to the National Labor Relations Board, what you see is a direct and ideologically motivated assault on workers' rights under the fraudulent guise of constitutional strict constructionism. That decision, made by a panel of Republican-appointed judges, is now being used by greedy nursing-home operator HealthBridge as a pretext for continuing to lock out more than 600 workers at its Connecticut facilities. The workers, who are represented by SEIU, have been on strike since July 2012, with many elected officials (including Governor Malloy) joining their picket lines in Milford, Stamford, Danbury, Westport, and Newington.
Shortly after the strike began, the National Labor Relations Board determined that the unilateral changes HealthBridge made to benefits and work rules were illegal, and that the company had a pattern of trying to intimidate union members in order to win concessions. The NLRB asked US District Judge Robert Chatigny to intervene in the case. In December, Chatigny ruled that HealthBridge had to immediately take back more than 600 striking workers under their previous contract.
But because of the recent decision invalidating Obama's NLRB appointments, HealthBridge is now saying that the company should not be required to abide by Chatigny's decision. They have asked two Supreme Court Justices for relief from Chatigny's ruling -- Justice Ruth Bader-Ginsburg immediately rejected their plea, but Justice Antonin Scalia hasn't yet responded to the request. In a letter to the NLRB, HealthBridge said that if Scalia also rejects its arguments, it will give the striking workers their jobs back within five days. But there is no deadline for Scalia to respond to HealthBridge's plea, and given the right-wing justice's ideological disposition it is unlikely that he will act expeditiously to help the workers regain their jobs, even if he ultimately chooses to reject Healthbridge's legal arguments.
In other words, HealthBridge is doing everything it can to stall the process in order to break the strike, and Justice Scalia and the egregious NLRB decision are providing them with a convenient pretext.
Laura Clawson of Daily Kos called this situation an example of how "in a system rigged for bosses, workers often lose even when they win." But it also an example of how right-wing judicial activism is part and parcel of the ongoing assault on labor unions and working people that the likes of Scott Walker and the Koch brothers have brought to the fore of the conservative Republican agenda.
The NLRB decision will have wide-ranging implications for a variety of regulatory agencies -- just witness the Republican effort to invalidate Richard Cordray's recess appointment to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. It will create chaos and uncertainty in the executive branch, advancing the GOP's goal of an even more dysfunctional Washington. But its immediate deleterious impact is to imperil the dignity and livelihoods of Connecticut workers, and therefore it is an assault on all of us.