THE Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) issued the following statement in response to the Senate confirmation of billionaire public education novice Betsy DeVos as US Secretary of Education:
‘Choosing Betsy DeVos to lead the Department of Education was one of the first in what will surely be a series of horrific decisions made by the Trump administration. ‘Throughout the confirmation hearings, she proved to be completely unqualified for the position due to her lack of experience in public schools – which she has called a “dead end” – and through her support of charter schools, which have weakened districts like Chicago Public Schools (CPS) throughout the country.
‘Now that she has been confirmed, the groundswell of opposition to her appointment – evident by the first-ever deciding vote cast by a US vice president – will continue to grow, especially in Chicago, where she shares much in common with Mayor Rahm Emanuel, as both cater to billionaires who dabble in destroying public education in areas of high poverty inhabited by black and brown people.
‘No matter how much he tries to convince the public otherwise, Emanuel’s insistence on refusing to force his wealthy campaign donors to equitably fund CPS and neglect of the communities where hundreds of thousands of CPS students and educators live and work is a page right out of the billionaire education ‘reform’ playbook co-written by his mentor, Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner.
‘While our public schools crave revenue, democracy and an end to privatisation, the policies that Emanuel has rolled out in Chicago, and Rauner and Illinois Senate President John Cullerton are working to expand statewide, helped pave the way for the nightmare that is “US Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos” and the damage she will do nationally.’
Said CTU President Karen Lewis: ‘The only reason Betsy DeVos is in this position is because her family has donated hundreds of millions of dollars to the Republican Party, and not because of any sincere commitment to public education, because she has none.
‘It’s no surprise that Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner was among those who endorsed her, because they have a lot in common – such as using their extreme wealth to buy their positions. Our union will continue to stand united in opposition to them and anyone else who is a threat to public education,’ Lewis added.
The AFSCME trade union President Lee Saunders issued the following statement regarding the upcoming Senate confirmation vote on Betsy DeVos to be Secretary of Education: A commitment to the goals and values of public education ought to be the bare minimum requirement for a United States Secretary of Education.
‘But Betsy DeVos has spent decades of her life, and hundreds of millions of dollars of her private fortune, trying to undermine rather than strengthen the nation’s public schools. She has no relevant experience with or exposure to public education – not as a teacher or administrator, not as a school board member, not as a parent, not even as a student herself.
‘If Betsy DeVos gets her way, we’d further starve public schools by diverting more resources to taxpayer-funded vouchers and for-profit charters, which don’t provide the quality of education, the accountability measures or the civil rights protections that students and families need.
‘Our children, who depend on public schools to give them opportunity and hope for a brighter future, deserve much better. I urge the Senate to reject this nomination.’
• The AFL CIO trade union federation has just published ‘7 Things You Need to Know About Supreme Court Nominee Neil Gorsuch.’ Judge Neil Gorsuch was nominated to fill the current vacancy on the Supreme Court. Soon the US Senate will hold hearings on his nomination.
In taking a deeper look at Gorsuch”s record, there are quite a few rulings and writings that should concern working people. As a private lawyer and as a judge, he has aligned himself with the interests of Big Business, not the concerns of working families. He has ruled against protecting the health and safety of workers, made it harder to have discrimination-free workplaces and argued for corporations’ misconduct to be protected from correction by investors and consumers.
Here are a few examples:
1. An excavator operator died on the job after being electrocuted by an overhead power line at a surface mine site.
The Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission investigated, finding a serious violation of safety regulations and imposed on the employer a $5,550 fine, which the employer appealed.
While the majority of the court upheld the commission”s findings against the employer, Gorsuch dissented, contending that this case was yet another example of administrative agencies wielding ‘remarkable powers’ and ‘penalising’ the company even when no evidence existed. (Compass Environmental Inc. v. OSHRC, 10th Circuit, 2011)
2. In NLRB v. Community Health Services, the majority deferred to the expertise of the National Labor Relations Board, ruling that workers’ interim earnings should be disregarded when calculating back pay awards where a hospital unlawfully reduced work hours.
The NLRB reasoned that, on balance, workers who take on additional outside jobs should retain the benefit of their ‘extra effort,’ not ‘recalcitrant’ employers. Gorsuch disagreed and dissented, observing that the NLRB’s ‘statutory charge isn”t to promote full employment … It’s not some sort of reincarnation of the Works Progress Administration.’ (NLRB v. Community Health Services Inc., 10th Circuit, 2016)
3. In Strickland v. UPS, the court majority found that a woman driver fired by her company had sufficient evidence to challenge that firing based on sex discrimination. The trucker’s evidence included co-workers who testified that she was treated differently than her male co-workers and that only she regularly had to attend individual meetings and counselling sessions on sales performance. Gorsuch, however, stridently dissented, finding such evidence ‘absent.’ (Strickland v. UPS, 10th Circuit, 2009)
4. In the TransAm Trucking case, the court majority deferred to the US Department of Labor, agreeing that under the Surface Transportation Assistance Act a shipping company improperly fired a trucker when, out of safety concerns, he refused to drag a trailer with frozen brakes.
Gorsuch dissented, taking issue with the department”s findings that the statutory phrase ‘refuse to operate’ should be interpreted within its statutory context of promoting health and safety. Gorsuch instead looked to a dictionary for the plain meaning of the phrase and queried: ‘What, under the sun, at least at some level of generality, doesn’t relate to ‘health and safety?’ (TransAm Trucking Inc. v. Administrative Review Board, US Department of Labor, 10th Circuit, 2016)
5. In a 2005 paper, Gorsuch argued that class actions challenging securities fraud should be made more difficult for investors, since protecting corporations from the risk of litigation far outbalanced the concerns of investors who may have been swindled. (Settlements in Securities Fraud Class Actions: Improving Investor Protection, Washington Legal Foundation, 2005)
6. In private practice, Gorsuch filed an amicus brief, again opposing class actions in securities litigation as burdensome on business, on behalf of the US Chamber of Commerce, an organisation that represents the interests of Big Business and seeks to undermine worker protections. (Brief of Amicus Curiae for the United States Chamber of Commerce, Dura Pharm.
Inc. v. Broudo, 2005). In a 2005 article discussing the Broudo case, Gorsuch attacked plaintiffs’ lawyers who represented investors in securities class actions as seeking ‘free ride[s] to fast riches.’ (‘No Loss, No Gain,’ Legal Times, January 31, 2005)
7. In a 2005 opinion-editorial, Gorsuch condemned ‘American liberals’ for an ‘overweening addiction’ to constitutional litigation. While he concluded that liberals should ‘kick’ that litigation addiction and try to ‘win elections rather than lawsuits,’ he directed criticism only at ‘the Left,’ not the Right and conservative legal advocacy groups.