The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Charles Idelson, (510) 273-2246 or Holly Miller, 510-273-2289


RNs: Rulings Continue Corporate Tilt with Further Attacks on Democracy, Women, Worker's Rights

Rulings Also Reflect Cynical Misuse of Free Speech


The Supreme Court ruling today limiting the collective voice of Illinois home care workers continues a dangerous pattern of undermining democracy as well as eroding the rights of workers to have a collective voice through their unions, and signals a desire for broader restrictions, said National Nurses United, the largest U.S. organization of nurses.

NNU also blasted a second court ruling sharply limiting access to reproductive healthcare for women by allowing corporations to refuse to provide contraceptive care in health coverage.

"Today's actions continue a steady assault on the rights of workers and consumers by what has become the Supreme Corporate Court with a general tilt towards wealthy corporate interests, and further the manipulation of 'free speech'," said NNU Executive Director RoseAnn DeMoro.

In Harris v Quinn, the anti-union decision, the court limiting the decision to what it termed "partial public employees" who work in home health settings, but the 5-4 ruling "sends strong signals of the rightwing majority's desire for more sweeping restrictions on the ability of workers to collectively participate in public policy through their unions as a counter weight to the virtually unlimited corruption of public life by corporate interests," DeMoro said.

The decision comes one year after the limited Knox v Local 1000 care in which the Roberts Court admonished a public-sector union for spending funds on one election fight, but invited further legal attacks under the pretext of "free speech" rights for workers, DeMoro noted. Indeed, two cases to expand those decisions in both the public and private sector seem headed for court review in the next Court session starting in October.

Unions are required to represent, and spend resources to represent, all workers in a bargaining unit for negotiating their wages, benefits, and working conditions, and for decades have been required to offer those objecting to contributing to that effort to provide a "fair share" alternative.

Corporations and rightwing organizations such as those which brought the Harris v Quinn case have long sought to destroy the voice of unions as a check on corporate power by eliminating the ability of unions to collect dues from members they represent - in hopes of bankrupting unions.

No similar restraints are placed on corporations on political activity which can, for example, openly lobby for tax breaks for corporations or limits on workers rights without any means for dissent by shareholders who might seek a more equitable tax burden for corporations and higher tax revenues for public protections and civic responsibility.

Even in the public sector Harris v Quinn and the Knox ruling that preceded it open the door to public employers imposing cuts on workers while unions that represent those employees are sharply limited in their ability to use the public arena to fight back at a time work actions such as strikes are already severely limited in many jurisdictions.

Harris v Quinn is also an ominous step in further eroding the rights of healthcare workers to advocate for improved care, DeMoro added. "The goal of the anti-union crowd is to disempower the ability of nurses and other healthcare workers to speak out for patient and public safety on everything from food inspections to a healthier environment to safer health care settings."

DeMoro also condemned the Hobby Lobby decision for its direct attack on women's health, as well as opening the door for employers to opt out of other health coverage for workers under the cover of "free speech rights."

"Increasingly we see this court cynically manipulating the tradition of free speech to further expand the power of corporations over all segments of public life," said DeMoro. "From decisions that money equals free speech, which especially benefits large corporate interests to protecting corporations from consumer challenges to anti-union decisions, the First Amendment has been steadily corrupted by this court."

Perverting free speech rights for corporate interest is one way, DeMoro concluded, in which the court has been sharply shifting the ground of economic, political, and social life towards wealthy corporate interests.

Last year, for example, the court majority limited the grounds under which workers can sue employers for sexual discrimination, the grounds under which pharmaceutical giants can be sued for product defects, and placed even tighter limits on class action suits against companies.

Those decisions continued several years of handouts from the Roberts Court to big business, perhaps most evident in the Lilly Ledbetter case in which the court barred Ledbetter from recovering back pay for years of pay discrimination, and of course the Citizens United ruling, wrenching open the door for virtually unlimited corporate spending in elections.

"With a Supreme Court that is increasingly moving hand in hand with Wall Street and corporate interests to eviscerate our democracy, it's a reminder working people can not count on the courts for justice, and must rely on our own stepped up activism for a more just society," DeMoro said.

Corporate focused decisions of the Supreme Corporate Court include (partial list):

Harris v Quinn
Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc.
Citizens United v Federal Elections Commission
McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission
Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire
American Express v. Italian Colors Restaurant
Mutual Pharmaceutical Company v. Bartlett
Pliva v. Mensing
Vance v. Ball State
Knox v. Local 1000
AT & T Mobility v. Concepcion

National Nurses United, with close to 185,000 members in every state, is the largest union and professional association of registered nurses in US history.

(240) 235-2000