Corporate America celebrated two anti-labor decisions issued last week, one by our illustrious "Supreme" Court and the other by the Bush Administration. On Wednesday, April 3rd, the Supreme Court ruled that immigrant workers fired by their boss for trying to organize a union were not entitled to back pay. The 5-4 decision involved the cases of several workers at the Hoffman Plastic company in California who were fired from their jobs in 1989 after trying to form a union. The court ruled that workers who did not have the documents to legally work in the United States were not entitled to back pay, even though they were illegally fired! The contorted and anti-labor logic of the decision illustrates in graphic detail the need for sweeping labor law reform, to address the human rights disaster in U.S. workplaces. A closer scrutiny of the anti-worker bias of Supreme Court members and nominees is also in order.
The second set of bad news for working people was the decision on April 5th by the Bush Administration to issue a set of voluntary ergonomic "guidelines" for employers. The guidelines address an array of repetitive motion injury situations in the workplace, but contain no provision to force employers to correct dangerous conditions. Each year millions of working people suffer crippling and painful back, neck, hand, and arm injuries while on-the-job. The Bush action follows on the heals of the last-minute decision of President Clinton to implement ergonomic regulations. Congress promptly repealed the more strict Clinton rules in March of 2001. While the Bush regime and big business should be denounced for promoting this toothless and cynical scheme, it should be remembered that the Clinton Administration wasted more than five years before implementing the ergonomics rules literally hours before Bush was inaugurated.