People For the American Way

  • February 21, 2018
    Guest Post

    by Elliot Mincberg, Senior Fellow at People For the American Way

    *This piece was originally posted on Medium.

    Later this month, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in Janus v. AFSCME Council 31, which right-wing activists hope will lead a conservative Court majority to deal a “crushing blow to organized labor.” The case is part of a lengthy effort by labor opponents to get the Supreme Court to overrule the 1977 precedent in Abood v. Detroit Board of Education that public employers can require workers who choose not to join a union to at least pay for the costs of collective bargaining from which they benefit, despite free speech claims to the contrary. The Court split 4–4 on this issue in the Friedrichs case two years ago after the death of Justice Scalia, but anti-union activists hope the addition of the very conservative Justice Gorsuch could push the anti-union cause over the top. A close look at the record in Janus, however, suggests some important differences compared with Friedrichs and other cases that could well result in the preservation of Abood and union workers’ rights.

  • February 27, 2015

    by Caroline Cox

    On Thursday, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted unanimously to report four judicial nominees to the Senate floor: Alfred H. Bennett, George C. Hanks, Jr., and Jose Rolando Olvera, Jr., to be U.S. District Judges for the Southern District of Texas, and Jill N. Parrish to be a U.S. District Judge for the District of Utah. 

    Also on Thursday, the White House announced the nomination of Mary Barzee Flores and Julien Xavier Neals to serve on the United States District Courts. Flores is nominated to fill a vacancy on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, and Neals is nominated to fill a vacancy on the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey.

    People for the American Way discuss at their blog the problem with Republican inaction as judicial emergencies increase. Due to delays in identifying recommendations for vacancies and scheduling committee votes, there are now multiple situations in which vacancies have become judicial emergencies.

    There are currently 49 vacancies, and 20 are now considered judicial emergencies. There are 14 pending nominees. For more information see judicialnominations.org.

  • May 8, 2013

    by Jeremy Leaming

    While the Obama administration has done much to diversify the federal bench, Senate Republicans have so far successfully kept one of the nation’s most important appellate courts free of any diversity. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit rules on significant and often complex matters, including national security concerns; but it also rules on matters that are of great concern to corporate America.

    Since the Republican Party is the primary coddler of the super wealthy, it’s hardly surprising that its leaders in the Senate are working feverishly to ensure that President Obama has little if any opportunity to change the ideological makeup of the D.C. Circuit. The graphic (right) produced by People For The American Way is a compelling and accessible picture of the matter. (Senate Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Chuck Grassley is also pushing legislation that would cut the number of judges on the bench; he claims the D.C. Circuit has enough judges and a light caseload. For the truth, read retired D.C. Circuit Chief Judge Patricia Wald’s piece for The Washington Post.)  

    For many years now, the D.C. Circuit has been controlled by conservative judges. There are four vacancies on the bench and Senate Republicans have successfully blocked the president from filling them. As Miranda notes in a PFAW blog post, because of Senate obstructionism Obama is the “first president since Woodrow Wilson to serve a full first term without placing a judge on the D.C. Circuit.”

    An opinion yesterday by a three-judge panel of the D.C. Circuit provides yet another example of the Court’s pro-business tilt. It knocked down a rule by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) requiring employers to post notices about the rights of workers, such as joining a union or advocating for safer working conditions. In a post for AFL-CIO NOW, Mike Hall calls the NLRB rule “commonsense and evenhanded,” noting that such notices also inform workers that they do not have to join a union. But the D.C. Circuit found a way to side with corporations that aren’t especially eager to inform workers of their rights pursuant to the National Labor Relations Act.

    That opinion follows one from earlier in the year, Canning v. NLRB, where the D.C. Circuit invalidated the president’s appointments to the five-member NLRB. That opinion has been appealed by the Obama administration. In short, the three-judge panel of the D.C. Circuit essentially redefined what a recess appointment is, one that differs greatly from practice and federal court precedent. (See Sec. 2 of Article II of the U.S. Constitution.)

    The D.C. Circuit has also proven hostile to environmental regulations that are often challenged by corporations. In a post for grist, the Constitutional Accountability Center’s Simon Lazarus and Doug Kendall say the D.C. Circuit, on “any given day … has the power to throw the environmental movement into complete disarray.” (They could have added to the great delight of many corporations or the Koch brothers.)

  • January 6, 2011
    Although many Tea Partiers proclaim to be populists and staunch defenders of the Constitution, a look behind their lofty rhetoric reveals yet another political group devoted to corporate interests, according to a new study by Jamie Raskin, a Maryland state senator and law professor at American University.

    Raskin, also a senior fellow at People For the American Way, writes in "Corporate Infusion: What the Tea Party's Really Serving America," that the "Tea Party movement dresses up its agenda in populist, constitutional and libertarian rhetoric but these gestures are almost always in service of a conservative corporate agenda."

    A century ago, Raskin notes, populists fought "against the ‘coercive potential of the emerging corporate state,' in the words of historian Lawrence Goodwyn (Democratic Promise, 1976). They fought hard for the Constitution to be a charter of democratic rights, freedoms and powers that could enable the people to achieve collective social progress."

    Moreover, Raskin notes the "striking historical irony" of the movement's use of the Tea Party moniker.

    Raskin writes:

    The original Boston Tea Party was a mass popular movement against the special favors and subsidies that the British parliament conferred upon the East India Company, a rapacious corporation that cultivated cozy relations with politicians and an official monopoly on trade with the Far East. When the managers of the East India Company found themselves on the verge of bankruptcy because of their wild and predatory behavior, the Parliament bailed them out by passing the Tea Act of 1773, which exempted the company from having to pay any and all of the taxes that England imposed on colonial merchants, thus essentially extending the company's monopolistic favor to North America.

    This act of corporate welfare and favoritism on behalf of a corporate giant with no connection to the towns and farms of the local communities --not unlike the sweetheart deals and bail-outs regularly cooked up in our time for major corporations-harmed local merchants and was an assault on fair trade in the colonies . It aroused an enormous public fury. Opposition to the bloated subsidies for the East India Company exploded in a spectacular outbreak of anti-British and anti-corporate civil disobedience on December 16, 1773 when patriots disguised as Mohawk Indians boarded three of the company's ships and poured the ample contents of the tea chests into Boston Harbor. This was the Boston Tea Party.

    Today's 'Tea Party' movement arises in a moment of far greater corporate misfeasance and political corruption. However, it remains curiously silent on even the most shocking corporate crimes and depredations. These misdeeds have been made possible by deregulation, weak oversight, cozy relationships among government officials and lobbyists and executives, and the capturing of regulatory agencies by the regulated industries. A Tea Party that lived up to its honorable name today would have spent the 2010 election demanding that the government bring to justice the large corporations that caused far more harm to Americans over the last decade than the East India Company ever did.