Aliquippa’s 1937 J&L Workers Come Up In Supreme Court Wrangling Once Again—This Time Over Health Care

Ten Steelworkers, Five Justices, and the Commerce Clause

By Amy Davidson
The New Yorker

If there had been Twitter, instead of news tickers, in February, 1937, reporters and other observers would have been using it to follow the arguments before the Supreme Court in National Labor Relations Board v. Jones & Laughlin Steel Corp.

It was the central case of five, argued in one extraordinary round, which challenged the constitutionality of the National Labor Relations Act, also known as the Wagner Act.

The J. & L. dispute involved ten steelworkers who had been fired from the company’s Aliquippa, Pennsylvania, mills for trying to organize a union. As with this week’s hearings on the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, those deliberations were being watched with an anxiety that extended well beyond any concern for the protagonists in the suit, or even the law in question, to an entire vision of government.

Jones & Laughlin and its companion cases involved the Commerce Clause, the constitutional conductor for a whole orchestra of New Deal programs and Franklin D. Roosevelt’s more urgent efforts to pull the country out of the Great Depression. (It gives Congress the power “to regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian tribes.”) The post-1937 conception of the Commerce clause has, as Jeffrey Toobin noted yesterday, become an assumed part of any number of government efforts today; it is the defense for challenges to the individual mandate but also to other aspects of the A.C.A., like provisions protecting people with preëxisting conditions.

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Budget For Wall Street vs Budget For Main Street

John Nichols

A Budget For Wall Street Versus A Budget For Main Street

John Nichols on March 28, 2012 – 11:27 AM ET

The U.S. House of Represenatives will weigh in Thursday on the direction the country should take regarding budget priorities.

At the most interesting ends of the debate, the choice will be stark: A Budget for Wall Street versus a Budget for All.

Most Americans know that House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan is presenting the former option. The Wisconsin Republican has a history of crafting budgets that deliver for Wall Street. And he makes no great apology for that.

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Trumka Calls on Pa. Unions to Support Obama

AFL-CIO Pres. Rich Trumka addresses PA AFL-CIO Convention

Trumka calls on Pa. unions to support Obama

March 27, 2012|Jane M. Von Bergen INQUIRER STAFF WRITER

While acknowledging the “ups and downs we’ve had over the past three years,” the national head of the U.S. labor movement called on Pennsylvania union members Tuesday to mobilize to keep President Obama in office.

“President Obama stands on our side,” AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka told hundreds of AFL-CIO union delegates gathered at the Sheraton Philadelphia Downtown in Philadelphia at the start of the Pennsylvania Federation of the AFL-CIO’s three-day convention.

Much of the convention will consist of union administrative business, heavily underscored with politics. But on Thursday, the AFL-CIO will also unveil a new effort to connect start-up companies with union workers before sending delegates to attend a noon rally in support of a drive to unionize 3,000 security guards working in Philadelphia’s office towers and major institutions including the University of Pennsylvania.

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