Who is this old white guy?

Bam's Supreme Court nominee has good record with organized labor

Kris LaGrange's picture
Mar 16, 2016

On March 16th President Obama kicked off what is sure to be the biggest fight of his contentious Presidency by nominating Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court.  As UCOMM Blog previously reported, the seat came open after Justice Scalia died and a new nominee could change the balance of power on the court.  With such an important nomination, we decided to take a look at Garland’s record on labor issues.

Garland was appointed to the DC Circuit court, sometimes called the second highest court in the land, in 1997 after having served in President Clinton’s Justice Department. Of all of the prospective nominee’s he probably has the most experience in dealing with labor related issues.  In that role, Judge Garland wrote 22 majority decisions on labor cases that were brought before the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).  Of those 22 decisions, Garland supported the NLRB’s decision against the employer in 18 of them and partially upheld the NLRB’s decision in the other 4.  In his decisions, it becomes clear that he is willing to support labor unions and workers right to organize.  He also shows a strong deference to favor decisions that are made by agency decision makers.  During his time on the court, he has supported the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 1400 when they petitioned to overturn an NLRB decision that a grocery store had had not committed unfair labor practices.  In his decision, Garland decided to grant the UFCW’s petition, basically saying that there was sufficient evidence that the store committed unfair labor practices.  In another case, Garland sided with the Carpenters union against a company that tried to bust their union and allowed the NLRB to “pierce the corporate veil,” which allowed the NLRB to collect penalties that were due to the members from both corporate and private accounts.

Garland is definitely the safe pick that Obama needed to have any chance of being approved.  He is considered a centrist on many issues and is older so his time on the court will not be as long as younger justices like Elana Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor.  Once the pick was announced, both sides began mobilizing.  “He’s a great judge. I had not heard Merrick is going to be appointed,” Richard Trumka, President of the AFL-CIO said. “Merrick Garland’s a great judge, and we would support him.”

Garland might have some bipartisan support.  "I have no doubts that Garland would get a lot of [Senate] votes,” Senator Orrin Hatch, a former chairman of the panel, told Reuters in 2010 when Garland was last being considered. “And I will do my best to help him get them."  The last time that Garland was approved by the Senate, it was also controlled by Republicans.  He was confirmed with a 76-23 vote.

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