Wednesday, May 21, 2014
Is Supreme Court for Big Business and Against the Worker?
Lee Saunders is convinced that a series of Supreme Court decisions is leading to an America where the wealthy and big business can control the political process, silencing the voices and votes of millions of American workers.
Saunders, the president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSME) which represents 1.6 million members, spoke recently at the Center for American Progress and delivered a strong attack against recent court decisions such as Citizens United that are concentrating political power in the hands of a wealthy few.
"Most people don't spend a lot of time thinking about the Supreme Court, but the court is making decisions that are leaving more and more families behind. The decisions are pushing the Supreme Court closer to Wall Street and business and further away from Main Street," Saunders said. "More and more billionaires will have the power to turn our democracy into a plutocracy."
The union leader expressed grave concern about the business-friendly court's upcoming decision in Harris v. Quinn, a case where it has been asked to decide if agency shop, which allows unions to take money from workers its bargains for even if those workers decline to join the union, is constitutional. That decision is expected next month.
"Now our right to represent these workers is under question," Saunders said."When the Supreme Court said corporations are people too they can hold more sway than the voices of actual people. The power of big money is trying to buy our democracy. We need an America that works for everyone."
Saunders said you can clearly see the pro-business side of the current John Roberts court even in its decisions of what cases it will hear. On average, the Court agrees to look at about 1 in every 100 cases submitted. However, Saunders said that the court agrees to take on 32% of cases backed by business organizations such as the Chamber of Commerce.
The union leader contended that the combined efforts of union workers is vital to combatting the power of the extremely wealthy, a task which is difficult even under the best of conditions. In an America where political power more and more means money, Saunders cited an important statistic in the inherent inequality in the funding field. In the 2012 election cycle, the two Koch brothers, the poster boys for the wealthy who are attempting to control American politics and government, spent $412 million of their own money. Union contributions totaled $153 million.
Unions are vital to continuing American success, Saunders contended. "When union density is bigger, the middle (class) becomes stronger. But now they are coming after us to reduce that density," he said.
But the struggle, while difficult given the court's rulings, is not over, Saunders said. "We have to go back to basics. We've got to organize. We've got to educate. We've got to get the power that comes with building a community."
"We all must be active and engaged in the battle because this truly is about the future of our nation," he added.
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