Labor Day 2018: Congress Needs to Step Up

Debra L. Ness

We celebrate Labor Day on the first Monday of September each year and, this year we look ahead to the first Monday in October, when a newly constituted U.S. Supreme Court will begin its new term. Next week the Senate Judiciary Committee will hold hearings on the nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to fill the open seat on the Supreme Court. If Kavanaugh is confirmed, we fear — and expect, based on his record — that workers’ rights and the rights of women will be in grave jeopardy.

Judge Kavanaugh’s record on workplace issues is truly alarming. He dissented — against working people — in several workplace discrimination cases. He authored opinions and dissents undermining workers’ freedom to join unions and negotiate for a better life. We know that women, and especially women of color, benefit greatly from our ability join unions. Through unions women can achieve better pay equity, greater access to health care and have the power to stand up against unjust employers.

It is no secret that women face persistent workplace discrimination and harassment — pregnancy discrimination, pay discrimination and sexual harassment among them. So we urgently need to be able to rely on our courts to provide justice using civil rights and labor laws. Confirming Judge Kavanaugh to a lifetime position on our highest court would deny us these protections and potentially erode other well-established and much-needed rights that affect women’s health, autonomy and economic security.

We are counting on senators to refuse to confirm Kavanaugh, just as we are counting on Congress to advance the legislation workers need. Instead, to the detriment of workers and those we support, we saw no serious consideration or votes this year on several essential bills, including the Healthy Families Act, which would guarantee workers the right to earn paid sick time; the Family And Medical Insurance Leave (FAMILY) Act, which will ensure all working people access to paid family and medical leave; the Paycheck Fairness Act, which will help stop pay discrimination; and the Schedules That Work Act, which will provide workers more predictability and control over their work schedules. Instead, lawmakers sought to erode hard-won state and local paid sick days and fair scheduling protections and took no action to address pervasive workplace harassment.

This Labor Day, lawmakers should commit to do better. We won’t rest until all workplaces are more fair and family friendly and all families are able to thrive.

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