The US Supreme Court at the end of June stated that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) cannot implement caps of carbon emissions at a state level. The Supreme Court justified that such a decision of limiting a state’s ability to produce a specific type of energy is of great importance and must come from the Congress. The recent decision alerted the labor organizers. They now fear that the Supreme Court might push back against any decisions put forward by the labor agency.
Western media focused mostly on the impact that such a decision will have on the climate movement and the green transition. The New York Times documented how such a decision will make it tougher for Biden to cut the greenhouse emissions in half. The Washington Post regarded it as just the inceptive steps of a bigger anti-climate change agenda. The anti-climate blow came in a period of time when the Democratic Senator from West Virginia, Joe Manchin stopped any legislation aimed at tackling climate changing from passing in Congress. He pointed to the high rate of inflation – 9.1%, the highest since November 1981 – saying that one must take care of the rising costs of living and then think about the environment.
While the major focus of the discussion focused on how this ruling dealt another hit to Biden’s falling rate of approval, legal scholars have been looking at the interpretation that the Supreme Court. The argument was based on the idea that governmental agencies are not directly elected by the people, but its members are named by politicians or compete for jobs through a traditional hiring process. Chief Justice Roberts applied the “major questions” doctrine which requires agencies that have previously received the power to make decisions, to provide a clear statutory authorization that proves that they have been granted the possibility to inflict that specific change.
In the case of EPA, the Supreme Court when looking at the carbon emissions, which was deemed to be an economic issue of national interest, the Justices identified that the agency had no clear authorization to enact cap-and-trade schemes.
With a heavily conservative Supreme Court, many decisions coming from the agencies might be challenged once the Court returns from recess in October. The President of the United States nominates people to be high governmental officials and some of those are the people working inside the agencies. Thus, with every presidential change, the leader brings in his own team. They can enact changes given their political agenda.
During the Trump Administration, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) sided more with the employers and let the unions behind. With Biden, the NLRB has sided with the workers and organized labor.
The labor agency’s General Counsel, Jennifer Abruzzo, has promised to use her full arsenal to fight the decline in power of the working-class over the past decades.
The current legislature has tried repeatedly to pass pro-workers legislation, such as the PRO Act but has failed, thus relying on the powers of agencies to enact the desired change. Biden not only promised to be a president that would tackle climate change. He also declared himself the most pro-labor leader that existed and so far has delivered changes that have helped the union movement. Now invoking the “major question” doctrine in the EPA case causes raises eyebrows amongst labor leaders. Can any NLRB decisions during Biden’s tenure might be challenged?
The union movement in the United States has seen a revival in the past years.
Workers at Starbucks has so far managed to unionize 200 stores. Employees at Amazon fight the corporate greed and the multi-million union-busting campaign.
Discussions about unions and workers rights have been on everyone’s lips, especially when “seeking employment” signs can be found anywhere in an American town. The analysts referred to it as the Great Resignation, the period of time during which workers said that they will no longer take it for meager wages and seek better employment.
The current labor climate leaves many things uncertain for labor organizers who are now bracing for the midterm elections in November. While Biden and his administration have pushed for pro-labor reforms, and the organizing drives have taken over the news, the Supreme Court reigns as a conservative body and the people on the right are mobilizing fast. There is no certainty that the Supreme Court will push against any act put forward by the NLRB. Nevertheless, labor organizers must be vigilant at a time when conservatives are pushing.