Taughannock Falls

Taughannock Falls
from: althouse.blogspot.com

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Why even conservative judges can sometimes help workers

Mike Hall brings us this news from the sunny Southwest:

A unanimous New Mexico State Supreme Court said Wednesday that tea party Republican Gov. Susana Martinez overstepped her authority when earlier this year she fired two members and the executive director of Public Employee Labor Relations Board. The New Mexico Federation of Labor (NMFL) filed suit against Martinez’s action.
The court ordered Martinez to reinstate the two fired board members.
The three-person labor board enforces the state’s public employee collective bargaining law and consists of one member chosen by state employee unions, one member chosen by state department heads and one member chosen by the other two members. Although the governor makes the official appointments, the selection process is performed by unions, management and the board itself.
The board also chooses an executive director. It’s not clear what will happen with the executive director’s position. The board could rehire the former director or choose another director.
The Santa Fe New Mexican reports:
The court agreed with arguments by Shane Youtz, who represented the New Mexico Federation of Labor AFL-CIO, that the board should maintain independence from the executive branch because by its very nature it decides cases involving the executive branch.
Youtz told the justices that of 43 cases pending before the board at the time of the firings, 17 directly involved the governor.

I like this story because it illustrates an important point that is sometimes overlooked by progressives, who despair of the labor movement's chances to avoid complete destruction in 21st century America. The fact that the U.S. Supreme Court has a 5 member majority that is vehemently anti-worker and pro-corporation, doesn't mean that the entire American judiciary shares this extreme bias. The judiciary is indeed an inherently conservative institution, and it does in fact favor the interests of capital over labor 99 times out of 100. Yet precisely because the judiciary is conservative it will sometimes stop or slow down the attempts of the radical far-right to abolish organized labor in our country. Why? Because for many decades in the 20th century, the establishment consensus was that some level of social harmony was best achieved by allowing workers to exercise at least a few minimal rights in the workplace. President Reagan began a process of changing this consensus among Republicans, but the clear precedent, that most judges alive today learned in law school, was that workers should have at least some remedies against the most extreme abuses of their employers.
Clearly the U.S. labor movement desperately needs a massive growth in popular support for their cause, to combat the concerted attack they face from the big-money interests. We all need to work very hard to that end. We may find to our surprise that occasionally conservative (as opposed to batshit insane reactionary) judges will support organized labor. They will do so because, weakened as it is, organized labor is still to them part of the natural order of things, like the rivalry between the Red Sox and Yankees, or fireworks on the 4th of July.


cranstonista said...

I'm hopeful-- that working folks are starting to wake up to the fact that unions are their only support against an uncaring economic elite in the U.S.

Cletis L. Stump said...

The court ruling in Montana barring corporate campaign contributions is another great example of your point, Ulysses. Hope you are well.

Ulysses said...

Thanks for mentioning the Montana ruling, Cletis. That lifted my spirits a great deal!! Happy New Year to you and yours...