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Working people can't afford Kavanaugh on Supreme Court

By Rep. Michelle Dunphy, D-Old Town

September 6, 2018

Rep. Dunphy

The Supreme Court is a fundamental pillar of our democracy and exists to protect the rights and freedoms of everyone. However, the Supreme Court and our judicial system have become weapons of powerful, corporate interests to strip working people of their rights to organize, to be safe at work and to receive equal justice under the law. For years, corporate interest groups have put millions of dollars into lobbying senators to confirm judges they know will do their bidding on the bench.

Judge Brett Kavanaugh, President Trump's second Supreme Court nominee, is their latest choice. If confirmed to a lifetime seat on the court, he will tip the scales of justice even further against working Mainers in favor of the wealthy and powerful for decades.

Union members go to work every day, just like everyone else, to make sure our communities are safe, healthy and strong. We believe working people deserve the freedom that comes with a good job, quality health care and a secure retirement. But the powerful corporate interests behind Kavanaugh's nomination don't believe that we deserve the same freedoms they do.

Judge Kavanaugh was hand-picked by the Heritage Foundation, a Washington-based think tank with extreme views on worker rights, and the Federalist Society, which rakes in tens of millions in untraceable dark money funding from billionaires and special interests to manipulate the federal court system at our expense.

Everything we know about Judge Kavanaugh's record indicates that he would not protect the rights of all Americans and instead use the power of the bench to support an extreme, pro-corporate agenda. As a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, Kavanaugh has been highly dismissive of workplace safety. In SeaWorld of Florida v. Perez, he sided with a negligent employer who violated federal laws, resulting in the preventable death of an employee.

In American Federation of Government Employees v. Gates, he gutted the collective bargaining rights of federal employees and dismissed the need for federal worker protections even in dangerous workplaces. In Miller v. Clinton, he argued that the State Department could fire an employee working overseas simply because he turned 65 years old, despite a clear violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act.

His criticisms of the Affordable Care Act and its protections for people with pre-existing conditions could result in the loss of health care for millions of Americans, and he has clearly stated that the president should be above the law. In recent days, the Trump Administration has moved to shield more than 100,000 pages of Kavanaugh documents from public scrutiny, citing executive privilege.

Working people cannot afford another justice who will put the interests of corporations and CEOs ahead of every day working people. Last term, the Supreme Court shamelessly ruled 5-4 against millions of working people in Janus v. AFSCME Council 31, overturning a forty-year-old unanimous precedent and threatening the freedom of working people to stand together in a strong union to win better wages, benefits and standards that benefit our communities.

The Janus case was a payoff in a years-long, multi-million-dollar investment by the same billionaire CEOs and corporate interests now pouring millions of dollars into a campaign to confirm Judge Kavanaugh to the bench. Janus was just one of several attempts to use the highest court in the land as a tool to trample on the rights and freedoms of working people, and it won't be the last.

We cannot allow wealthy CEOs and special interest groups to tighten their grip on the Supreme Court and exploit our nation's courts to launch further attacks on working people. We need a justice who will protect the rights of all Americans, not just the wealthy and powerful. Senator Susan Collins should oppose Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation.

Rep. Michelle Dunphy, D-Old Town, is serving her second term in the Maine House. She serves as House chair of the Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry Committee and is a member of the Labor, Commerce, Research & Economic Development Committee. She is also a member of CWA Local 1400.