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February 16, 2016
We don’t talk about American politics here very often, even though the political circus taking place south of the border provides lots of opportunity for entertainment and surprise – usually thanks to “The Donald”, but others contribute to the carnival atmosphere as well.
This past weekend, Antonin Scalia died. If you can’t remember where you know that name from, he was a Justice on the Supreme Court in America.
You may be wondering why this matters to you. The American Supreme Court is made up of 9 members, all appointed for life by the president. Until Scalia’s death, the composition of the Supreme Court was 5 Republican Justices and 4 Democratic ones. Now there are 4 of each. This matters for two reasons:
First, since the president decides who will be the next Justice, is it any surprise that the Republicans, by and large, want the decision to wait until after the election, hoping that a Republican president would install a Republican Justice, restoring the imbalance that the Republicans have enjoyed for many years. Democrats (and Jeb Bush, interestingly) want Obama to make the appointment before he leaves office, despite the Republican-led Senate promising to fight any nomination he brings forward.
More immediately, this means that if there is a tie in the decisions of the Justices, then the lower court decision stands. This includes the decision that stated that allowing unions to collect fees from nonmembers for the costs of representing them violated the non-members’ freedom of speech. At the moment, the lower courts ruled in unions’ favour, but we shall see what happens.
So why are we talking about this? Because whether we like it or not, what happens in America affects us here, and what happens in American labour law can have an impact here.
We can’t affect what happens in American politics, but we can ensure that our government is a supportive of Unionized Labour as possible by getting involved ourselves. Talk to your MLAs and MPs about your concerns. Run for office yourself. Municipal, provincial or federal government all need the support and endorsement of citizens, and the Trades compose a large segment of the economy – if you don’t remember, we are responsible for the creation of the middle class – so governments want to listen to us. But they sometimes need to be reminded. So remind them. Use the links to your MLAs and MPs to start a conversation with them.
As always, please leave comments or thoughts here.