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November 01, 2005

Scalito on Workers Rights

Alito on the Supreme Court will be a consistent vote against workers rights. That is a clear message if you look over his history on the Third Circuit Court of Appeals. What is striking about Alito is that he is so hostile even to the basic right of workers to have a day in court, much less interpreting the law in their favor.

The following cases are ones where Alito dissented from a majority decision of the Third Circuit, cases where his views were more conservative than the overall panel. They cover minimum wage, discrimination, retirement, public employee rights, and interpretations of union labor law.

There are other cases as well, where Alito wrote anti-worker majority decisions, as in his opinion to exempt public employers from the Family and Medical Leave Act (a principle that the Supreme Court subsequently overruled, putting him to the right of William Rehnquist)

I will add to the list as I find more cases.

Minimum Wage and Safety Protections for Workers

In RNS Services. v. Secretary of Labor, the court found that a mining services company was violating safety laws under the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act. The court rejected the company claim that it was not covered by mining safety laws, seeking to narrow application of the law to mines, not coal processing plants associated with such mines. Alito in dissent voted to exempt the facility from those mining safety regulations.

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

Employment Discrimination

In a race discrimination case, Bray v. Marriott Hotels, Marriott sought to deny the plaintiff, an african-american women who alleged racial discrimination, the right to even present her case to a jury. The Third Circuit argued that given disputed facts in the case, it was up to a jury, not judges, to decide if discrimination had occurred.
In dissent, Alito argued for granting summary judgement against the plaintiff, not even letting her present her case to a jury.

In Sheridan v. DuPont De Nemours, the full upheld a jury verdict against a hotel for sex discrimination, yet Alioto voted to overturn the jury verdict and substitute his own minority view of the evidence for the jury's.

In Glass v. Philadelphia Electric Co., a race and age discrimination case, Alito would have upheld a lower court's refusal to allow the plaintiff to cross-examine his employers about the hostile environment he experienced, evidence the majority of the court found was "relevant to a key aspect of the case" so the exclusion illegally undermined the plaintiff's right to a fair trial on his charges against his employer.

In Nathanson v. Medical College of Pennsylvania, the majority said the standard for proving disability-based discrimination articulated in Alito’s dissent was so restrictive that “few if any…cases would survive summary judgment.”

Public Employee Rights

In an assault on the rights of government employees, Alito voted in the minority in Homar v. Gilbert that governments do not violate the due process rights of employees when they suspend them without a hearing and without pay. Alito rejected the majority's view that some minimal hearing was required beyond the initial accusation -- in this case a drug charge never proven in court -- to justify loss of a job; Aliota declared that a mere accusation justified loss of pay and employment.

Labor Union Cases

In Caterpillar v. UAW and Local 786, the Third Circuit upheld a system were the company and the union negotiated for union stewards to process grievances over violations of the contract without losing pay or benefits, a relatively common practice that had been used at this particular plant for over 18 years. In the wake of a strike, the company suddenly challenged the legality of the system the company itself had agreed to and sought to have it overturned by the courts. The Third Circuit rejected the company's argument.
But in dissent, Alito sought to overturn the practice to benefit the company and disabled union grievance procedures, which they had bargained for through their previous contract.

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.

In Federal Labor Relations Authority v. U.S. Dep't of Navy, the full court found that the Navy was violating federal labor law for public employees in refusing to give a union the names and address of employees it was seeking to organize. Alito voted to disable the organizing drive by denying union access to the employee names.

In Specter v. Garrett, Alito voted to deny workers and their unions the legal standing to challenge the closing of a federal shipyard by the Base Closure Commission, legal standing that Alito would have denied the workers.

Retirement and Pension Cases

In a case of critical importance for many retiring workers, DiGiacomo v. Teamsters Pension Trust Fund, the Third Circuit found that a Teamster driver, who had worked in a union position from 1960 and 1971 and then from 1978 onwards, had to be credited for the time working before 1971 for calculating his pension. This was based on an interpretation of the federal Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) which prohibits forefeiture of benefits due to a break in service.
Alito in a lone dissent argued for destroying the workers retirement and deny the worker credit for those early years of work through his anti-worker interpretation of ERISA.

Posted by Nathan at November 1, 2005 08:41 AM