The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) gave two rulings having to do with corporate rights today.
The first had to do with contraception. Certain kinds of contraception have chemicals in them that could cause abortions. These contraceptive devices cause moral implications for many Americans. (Many believe that life begins at conception). When the President declares healthcare is mandatory (highly illegal, but that deserves its own blog post), this becomes an issue for corporations. There have been exceptions granted to non-profit organizations such as churches, but today’s ruling involved a for-profit organization. The Supreme Court ruled in favor of Hobby Lobby, a small chain of art supply stores that did not wish to provide some forms of contraception to its employees. I fully expect to see this ruling challenged in future cases.
I’m torn on this one – on the one hand, it’s no business of an employer what form of contraception a woman chooses to use; it’s a choice between her and her health provider and should be covered regardless of what it is. On the other hand, it’s no business of an employer what form of contraception a woman chooses to use; it’s a choice between her and her health provider and women don’t necessarily what their employer to have access to that information. (And if you say HIPAA, I say nay nay. If the employer is involved, there is ALWAYS a possibility they’ll find out the info). Personally, I favor the latter, but perhaps privacy is not a primary concern of this debate.
The second case had to do with unions. There’s a lot you can say for unions – they helped establish weekends, forty hour workweeks, safe work environments, abolish child labor and company stores. [Bonus: Tennessee Ernie Ford sings Sixteen Tons and it’s not to be missed]. There’s also a lot you can say against unions – weird things can start to grow in the stagnant pond of leadership, they can be power-hungry lobbyists unconcerned with the welfare of the employees they are supposed to represent, and inconsistent with the application of rules.
Today’s ruling has to do with employees who are not in the union – if you work in a company that has a union and you have chosen not to be part of that union, should you pay fees for benefiting from the union’s bargaining with the company? The SCOTUS ruled today that it violates first amendment rights – but only because the public sector employees were not entirely public sector. (In other words, the ruling was not sweeping). Yet, Justice Samuel Alito’s opinion included the fact that the precedent that established the fees in the first place was on rocky legal ground. Combine that with the White House’s vow to support the unions and you have a practical guarantee that there will be future cases of this kind before the Supreme Court.
For this, I have a rather simple suggestion: if you don’t pay union dues, you don’t get union rules. Perhaps that’s too simplistic an idea to always work, but in general, if you choose not to belong to the union, it’s your responsibility to come to an agreement with the employer on your own.
To paraphrase the late former President John Kenned: “Let us not seek the corporation’s answer, nor the employee’s answer, but the right answer.”
And because this blog is entitled Silly Civil Liberties, after all, here’s the take of Pat Bagley on the fact that the Supreme Court sides with corporations: