The U.S. Supreme Court pushed back against overreaching government with rulings in three important cases last month. These decisions are victories for workers’ freedom of choice, the constitutional separation of government powers and the religious freedom of American businesses. But the defiant reaction of the White House and labor unions should serve as warnings that enduring liberty requires a dedicated citizenry.
On June 30, the court dealt a blow to public-sector unions with a unanimous decision in Harris v. Quinn Union Dues. The Obama administration argued that people who cared for disabled or seriously ill loved ones at home were public-sector employees because they are “paid” via government entitlement checks received by the people for whom they care.
By classifying “home health aides” as public employees, Service Employees International Union (SEIU), a powerful Democrat ally, was allowed to confiscate millions of dollars in union dues from entitlement checks, whether those “employees” wanted to join or not.
The court’s majority opinion stated, “The First Amendment prohibits the collection of an agency fee from Rehabilitation Program PAs (i.e., home health aides) who do not want to join or support the union.” It also said, “a union’s status as exclusive bargaining agent and the right to collect an agency fee from nonmembers are not inextricably linked.”
SEIU President Mary Kay Henry said, “No court case is going to stand in the way of home care workers coming together to have a strong voice for good jobs and quality home care.”
A few days earlier, another 9-0 Supreme Court decision came down in National Labor Relations Board v. Noel Canning. The case arose when the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) ruled against Canning, a Pepsi-Cola distributor, in a labor dispute. Canning subsequently argued three of the five board members were improperly appointed by President Barack Obama.
The appointments were unilaterally made when the president sidestepped Congress in January 2012. At the time, Senate Republicans were holding pro forma sessions, which legally meant the Senate was in session. Obama declared the brief sessions were a sham, asserted authority to declare the Senate was in recess, and invoked the power of recess appointment.
In a rebuke of the president’s actions, the majority opinion declared, “In our view the pro forma sessions count as sessions, not as periods of recess. We hold that, for purposes of the Recess Appointments Clause, the Senate is in session when it says it is.”
The Obama administration remains unapologetic. White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said the administration is “deeply disappointed” in the ruling, but it will “honor it” — for now.
Arguably, the most important Supreme Court ruling in June was in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores Inc. The justices came to a 5-4 decision, finding Obamacare’s contraception mandate violated the rights of “closely held” companies under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
The Supreme Court challenge was brought by Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties. Like dozens of companies, they raised religious objections to covering contraceptives that work after conception like Plan B and ella, as well as two types of intrauterine devices.
Hobby Lobby and Conestoga contended that the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act extends to businesses. The Obama administration argued that recognition of such rights would prevent female employees from making decisions about birth control based on what’s best for their health.
The court rejected the administration’s claim. It found that the Obamacare contraceptive mandate “substantially burdens the exercise of religion” of companies whose interest lies in protecting the rights of shareholders, officers and employees.
“The decision affirms that Americans, contrary to what the Obama administration attempted to impose, have a right to live and work in accordance to their conscience and can’t be forced to surrender their religious freedom once they open a business,” Sen. Ted Cruz said.
From the White House, Earnest said the decision “jeopardizes the health of women who are employed by these companies.” He continued, “We will work with Congress to make sure that any women affected by this decision will still have the same coverage of vital health services as everyone else.”
Americans are engaged in a battle to prevent an ever-expanding government from stealing our liberty. The decisions in SEIU, NLRB and Hobby Lobby are victories for citizens, but they don’t end the fight. Reactions by the Obama administration and big-government proponents should serve as stark warnings that lasting freedom ultimately depends on responsible Americans.
James D. Kellogg is a water resource engineer, contributor to BrennerBrief.com, and the author of “Radical Action: A Colt Kelley Thriller.” Look for it on amazon.com and visit JamesDKellogg.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org.