Over the last few weeks, there has been a lot of news coverage and discussion about a couple key Supreme Court decisions. The biggest - Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. - is the one that allows "secular" businesses to opt out of laws that they feel violate the owners' religious beliefs (in this case - contraception). The other - McCullen v. Coakley - eliminated "buffer zones" at abortion clinics as a violation of the 1st Amendment. In other words - no contraception, and when you have to deal with the consequences, you aren't getting any protection from the insane anti-choice crowds.
Lost in all of the noise are the results of some of the other cases, which can also have a fairly significant effect on our lives. Here are a few of them...HARRIS v. QUINN:
This case revolved around home healthcare workers who were not in a union. They were required to pay union dues anyway, because they benefitted from the regulations that the union provided via its bargaining power. As one might expect, the judgment was split along ideological lines, with the conservative side winning the majority, and ruling against the unions and in favor of the freeloaders. NATIONAL LABOR RELATIONS BOARD v. NOEL CANNING:
This was another case which actually started out as a labor dispute. A bottler for Pepsi wanted to weasel out of its agreement with the union, so it went to court. The court ruled that the NRLB ruling was invalid because there weren't enough acting members on the board. Why? Because the Senate was blocking the appointments. President Obama did a recess appointment, and the SCOTUS ruled that the Senate wasn't really in recess, so the appointment wasn't valid. This will give the Republicans in the Senate even more ammunition to stonewall all appointments to the various cabinets. FIFTH THIRD BANCORP v. DUDENHOEFFER:
For those of us who have worked for publicly-traded companies, they often offer Employee Stock Ownership Plans (ESOPs) to encourage employees to invest in the company. As an employee, you assume that the company is going to pursue business practices that are good for the company and its stock. In this case, they didn't and the stock plummeted, and some employees lost a big chunk of their retirement and so they sued. The SCOTUS decided that since the stock is publicly traded, the employees should have seen it coming.... and done what, I wonder?UTILITY AIR REGULATORY GROUP v. EPA:
In the "mixed bag" category, this one essentially holds up that the EPA can regulate pollutants, which is good. However, for the plaintiff, it ruled mostly in favor, saying that the EPA can't regulate the emission of greenhouse gasses unless the company was also being regulated for pollution emissions. In other words - greenhouse gasses are only regulated pollutants under certain circumstances. That has all the scientific basis as some of their other rulings (e.g.: the aforementioned contraception ruling).RILEY v. CALIFORNIA:
The one bright spot in all of the rulings was this one. In it, the court ruled that a person cannot be compelled to divulge the contents of their cellphone without a search warrant, and that the cops are not allowed to go snooping on their own. This was a rare case where the decision was unanimous.
So all in all - not a very good session for those of us who value protections for women's rights and middle class workers. How much longer will it be before one of those conservative judges exits the bench? It can't happen soon enough.