The Supreme Court’s ruling In Harris v. Quinn seems limited in its scope. According to Matthew Rothschild of the Progressive, the Court’s decision could be best called “odd.” The result could have been a disaster for public sector unions. Instead, the decision is limited to home care workers in Illinois. Rothschild does not the language of Judge Samuel Alito’s decision, which could set up more problems for public sector workers in the future. Norman Goldman, a former lawyer and current radio talk show host, made a similar comment. He noted that the Court sometimes rules by small steps. If the Court maintains its current line up or adds more conservative justices, this decision might be just the first slice. However, if more liberal justices are put on the Court, this case could be forgotten and meaningless.
In other news at the Court, the same justices who took rights from unions gave them to employers. In the Hobby Lobby case, the Court ruled that an employer could limit what kind of health coverage it provides employees based on the owners’ religious beliefs. Again, the case was limited to certain kinds of health insurance. However, this case is chilling to me. What if an employer’s religious beliefs held that women should be in the home? Could that company not hire women or not promote them to positions of management? Or, as in the case of Christian Scientists, what if the owner followed a religion that did not believe in traditional medical care?
Both cases are troubling because they are so limited in their scope. Following Goldman’s reasoning, the real problems for workers might be the result of cases that build on each other. The Supreme Court has always been a political institution. Working people need to remember what the Court has done when it comes time to vote. Justice may be blind, but judges are not.