The six-member right-wing majority of the Supreme Court has made it clear this term that it intends to impose its reactionary views on the American people, regardless of precedent or public opinion. The undemocratic nature of the Supreme Court — an unelected body who serve for life — has never been clearer. After attacking the rights of women when they overturned Roe v. Wade last year, this year the Court’s right wing has attacked the rights of Black people and other people of color, LGBTQ+ people, students, and workers.
In its ruling against affirmative action in Students for Fair Admissions, Inc. v. President and Fellows of Harvard College, the Court has deliberately ignored the history of brutal economic exploitation of Black people and other people of color through slavery, colonialism, the Jim Crow system of legal segregation, and ongoing racial discrimination in employment, housing and education.
Centuries of economic exploitation have resulted in a major racial wealth gap and, consequently, an uneven playing field for most Black students and other students of color seeking admission to college. In ruling that colleges cannot seek to level the field by considering race in admissions, the Court perpetuates racial divisions in society which only benefit the ruling class.
This decision is a continuation of over forty years of judicial attacks on the rights won by the civil rights movement, the women’s movement and the labor movement in the mid-twentieth century.
Black people and people of color are not the only targets of the Court’s right-wing majority. In 303 Creative LLC v. Elenis, the Court endorsed the right of a web designer in Colorado to flout that state’s anti-discrimination laws and openly discriminate against LGBTQ+ couples. As Justice Sonia Sotomayor pointed out in her dissent, “the immediate, symbolic effect of the decision is to mark gays and lesbians for second-class status.” Furthermore, the majority opinion is based on the flawed theory that commercial activity is “speech” — continuing the Court’s trend towards placing the rights of money, and those few who possess a lot of it, over the rights of people.
In Biden v. Nebraska, the Court struck down President Biden’s student-loan forgiveness program. This decision will have a major negative economic impact on over 40 million working-class Americans, for whom student loan repayments are a major financial burden and source of stress.
Finally, in Glacier Northwest v. Teamsters, the Court chipped away at the right to strike, ruling that the Teamsters union could be be sued in state court for economic damages caused when their members walked out mid-shift. Under long standing precedent in San Diego Building Trades Council v. Garmon, the National Labor Relations Act preempts state lawsuits against strikes and other union activities that are protected by the NLRA — but the Court held in this case that the strikers lost that protection because they struck mid-shift, while their trucks were full of concrete.
Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, the first Black woman to serve on the Supreme Court, was the only justice to dissent in Glacier, noting that “Workers are not indentured servants, bound to continue laboring until any planned work stoppage would be as painless as possible for their master.” Jackson also issued a scathing dissent in the affirmative action case, noting that “deeming race irrelevant in law does not make it so in life,” and that “The race-based gaps that first developed centuries ago are echoes from the past that still exist today. By all accounts, they are still stark.” Justices Sotomayor and Elena Kagan joined Jackson in dissenting in the affirmative action, LGBTQ+ and student debt cases.
While the Supreme Court is undemocratic and unelected, history shows that the people can still influence the court through mass action, as when the Supreme Court in the 1930s was compelled to recognize labor rights and the New Deal more broadly as millions of workers took to the streets. In order to restore our rights, we need a united, politically independent mass movement of the people, and UE is committed to doing our part to build that movement.
Director of Organization