Thu. Apr 18th, 2024

Watching Neil Gorsuch, a mild-mannered good boy from Denver, become the second-most-polarizing man in Washington.


wo years ago, the Supreme Court heard a case with bleak implications for the country’s labor movement. A California teacher named Rebecca Friedrichs decided she didn’t want to pay fees to the union that represented her because she didn’t want it funding liberal causes. So she sued. If the Court ruled in her favor, which no one doubted it would, public employees could choose to stop paying such fees, potentially triggering a vicious cycle of membership flight and financial ruin. But then Justice Antonin Scalia died in his sleep on a ranch in West Texas and the case ended in a 4-4 deadlock. The fees would remain; the unions were spared. At least for a while.

In late February 2018, like stagehands striking and rebuilding a set, the Supreme Court did it all over again. The case it heard was nearly identical, except the employee was named Mark Janus and his union was in Illinois. A free-market interest group that represented Janus just replaced the I STAND WITH REBECCA signs with I STAND WITH MARK signs and handed them to people outside the courthouse. This time, the conservatives would almost certainly get their win. Poised to break the tie was Justice Neil Gorsuch, sipping happily from a thermos on the stage-left end of the bench. Republicans were in heaven. “Try funding the modern Democratic Party without union dues,” said GOP operative and anti-tax obsessive Grover Norquist, who was milling around the Court. “Good luck.”


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