Most Americans have no idea how anti-worker the US supreme court has become

The court’s current justices are some of the most hostile to labor rights in modern US history.

Under Chief Justice John Roberts, the supreme court has been supremely pro-corporate – one study even called the Roberts court “the most pro-business court in history”. Not only have many justices been groomed and vetted by the business-backed Federalist Society, but Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito have taken lavish favors from billionaire corporate titans. Thomas has even spoken at two Koch network fundraising “donor summits”, gatherings of rightwing, ultra-wealthy business barons.

While the court is decidedly pro-corporate, most Americans probably don’t know just how anti-worker and anti-union it really is. The justices have often shown a stunning callousness toward workers, and that means a callousness toward average Americans. One of the most egregious examples was a 2014 ruling – with an opinion written by Thomas – that held that Amazon, which holds workers up to 25 minutes after the ends of their shifts waiting to be screened to ensure they didn’t steal anything, doesn’t have to pay them for that time.

Or take this month’s decision in which the court ruled in favor of Starbucks by making it harder for the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to win rapid reinstatement of workers who are illegally fired for supporting a union. In that case, Starbucks fired five of the six baristas who were heading an effort to unionize a Memphis Starbucks. After NLRB officials found that the workers had been fired unlawfully for backing a union, a federal judge agreed to the NLRB’s request to issue an injunction to quickly reinstate them. Many labor relations experts say it’s important for the NLRB to be able to win quick reinstatement after companies fire workers who lead unionization drives, as Starbucks has repeatedly done, because those firings often terrify co-workers and cause union drives to collapse.

Writing the court’s majority opinion, Thomas ignored all that, oblivious to the injustices and suffering that many workers face when they exercise their right to form a union. Thomas said that federal judges, when issuing such injunctions, should follow a more exacting four-part test, rather than the worker-friendly two-part test the NLRB favored. Thomas’s opinion also ignored some glaring facts: the union has accused Starbucks of firing 150 pro-union baristas, and the NLRB has accused Starbucks of an astoundingly high number of violations of the law – 436 – in its efforts to block unionization.

In contrast to Thomas, Ketanji Brown Jackson, in a partial concurrence and partial dissent, acknowledged the injustices and delays that pro-union workers often face. She wrote that “Congress, in enacting the National Labor Relations Act, recognized that delay in vindicating labor rights ‘during the “notoriously glacial” course of NLRB proceedings’ can lead to their defeat”. Jackson noted that the litigation over reinstating the Memphis baristas had dragged on for two years. (It was dismaying that Justices Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor signed Thomas’s soulless, unsympathetic majority opinion rather than Jackson’s.)

A 2022 study found that of the 57 justices who have sat on the court over the past century, the six justices with the most pro-business voting records are the six members of today’s 6-3, rightwing super-majority, all appointed by Republican presidents: Thomas, Alito, Roberts, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, and Amy Coney Barrett. The study found that Donald Trump’s three appointees – Gorsuch, Kavanaugh and Barrett – were the three most pro-business justices of the 57 evaluated. (That study also found that the court’s Democratic appointees at the time – Kagan, Sotomayor and Stephen Breyer – were among the top 20 pro-business justices.)

Read more at The Guardian