It appears the buffer zone in front of the U.S. Supreme Court is so large that the justices have lost touch with the real world. The five conservative justices have told us loud and clear that the hard work of Americans — especially American women — is not valued. It’s a very good time to be a corporation and a dangerous time to be a working woman.
In its two final decisions of the term that just ended, the court created obstacles to workers’ ability to have a strong voice in a union as well as women’s access to health care. First, the Harris v. Quinn ruling makes it more difficult for home care workers, the vast majority of whom are women and almost half women of color, to build a strong organization for good jobs and quality home care.
And in the Hobby Lobby decision, the high court gave CEOs of certain corporations the right to deny women coverage for birth control — despite the fact that the birth control benefit of the Affordable Care Act is federal law. The Supreme Court accepted the absurd argument that “closely held” for-profit corporations can have the same rights as a human being to exercise religious beliefs, trumping the rights of actual people in need of health care.
Some court watchers argue that these decisions are “narrow” and have limited application to a small number of workers. This is not the case at all — we’ve already seen through a series of additional orders from the court that the Hobby Lobby decision likely applies to all methods of birth control. The decisions could have tremendous reach, affecting millions of us. They have opened the door to laws that would cripple the rights of workers to have a voice about their working conditions, destroy protection against abusive protestors of women’s rights to safe and legal abortion, and give a free pass for corporations to discriminate against anyone in the name of religion.
For instance, in the days after the Supreme Court’s ruling, religious organizations asked the Obama administration to exempt them from the requirement that federal contractors not discriminate against LGBT employees. Now, any form of discrimination may be permitted.
But the fight is far from over, and we have the power to stop these harmful outcomes. Tens of thousands of home care workers are joining the fight for $15 an hour and a union, with actions planned throughout the summer. And we are taking our fight on behalf of working women to the ballot box in November.
The Service Employees International Union and Planned Parenthood Action Fund are showing Americans across the country which candidates stand with us and want to improve our lives — and which candidates care only about protecting the interests of the corporate elite. We are working with legislators in the states and in Congress to advocate for workers’ rights, and we also are aligning with women’s health champions in Congress to ensure they protect and expand women’s access to no-copay birth control.
It’s incredible that justices of the Supreme Court with little to zero connection to the issues facing ordinary, hard-working Americans every day have issued rulings with the potential to devastate our goals for a better future. But we won’t allow this to happen. We are going to transform these setbacks into opportunities by motivating Americans across the country to vote for candidates who are in touch with reality and who want us to succeed.
Women across the country are engaged and enraged. Planned Parenthood collected more than 186,000 signatures on its #JoinTheDissent petition in less than a week, and more than 5 million people viewed the organization’s Facebook post about the Hobby Lobby decision within the first 24 hours of the ruling.
Corporations are legal entities that lack a heart, mind, or soul. We are rising up to vote for candidates who care about living, breathing people with health concerns and families to support. If you agree that people, not for-profit businesses, should come first, join the dissent.
Mary Kay Henry is president of the Service Employees International Union; Cecile Richards is president of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund.