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Alito's Rulings Slam Workers at Every Turn

November 4, 2005
From family and medical leave rights to fair wages and job safety, the stakes for workers and unions are enormous as the Senate takes up President Bush's nomination of ultraconservative Judge Samuel Alito for the U.S. Supreme Court.

Alito, whom Bush chose after conservative leaders brutalized original nominee Harriet Miers for not being far right enough, has a long history on the Third Circuit Court of Appeals for ruling in favor of government and corporations against individuals.

"On issues of equality, workers' rights and the power of our elected representatives in Congress to improve Americans' lives, Judge Samuel Alito has repeatedly put basic rights at risk," AFL-CIO President John Sweeney said.

In an FMLA case in 2000, a three-judge panel that included Alito unanimously ruled that workers couldn't sue their employers if they were denied leave under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act. The decision was overturned by a Supreme Court majority that included Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, whose seat Alito is hoping to fill. In the case of a female hotel worker who was demoted after lodging sexual harassment charges, Alito's court reversed a lower-court decision that favored management. Of 12 judges, Alito was the lone dissenter, saying there should be a greater burden on workers who make such claims. The majority said that Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, on which the case was based, "would be eviscerated if our analysis were to halt where (Alito's) dissent suggests."

Here are thumbnails of some other troubling anti-worker decisions, as compiled by lawyer and labor activist Nathan Newman, writing on the Talking Points Memo website.

*** In RNS Services v. Secretary of Labor, the court rejected the claim of a mining services company that it wasn't subject to worker safety laws under the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act. Dissenting, Alito voted to exempt the facility from the safety regulations.

*** In Reich v. Gateway Press, the court majority found that a newspaper chain had violated federal minimum wage and overtime laws. Alito sought to interpret the law in a way that would have excluded the newspaper workers from the law's protections.

*** In an assault on the rights of government employees, Alito voted in the minority in Homar v. Gilbert, saying that governments do not violate due process rights of employees when they suspend them without a hearing and without pay. He rejected the majority's view in favor of at least a minimal hearing, declaring that a mere accusation justified loss of pay and employment.

*** In Caterpillar v. UAW and Local 786, the Third Circuit upheld a system in which the company and union negotiated for union stewards to process grievances over violations of the contract, a relatively common practice that had been in place for over 18 years. In the wake of a strike, the company challenged the legality of the system - even though it had originally agreed to it - and tried to have it overturned by the courts. The Third Circuit rejected the company's argument. But again in dissent, Alito stood with the company.

*** In Luden's Inc. v. Local Union No. 6 of the Bakery, Confectionery & Tobacco Union, the majority held that the employer's duty to arbitrate a disagreement over work conditions survived the contract termination through an implied contract agreement between the parties, but Alito ruled against the union.