A short time ago, I was proud to stand with my union sisters and brothers in Lewiston when we joined together for the Western Maine Central Labor Council’s Labor Day barbecue. I could feel the energy in the air. Working Mainers — and working people across the country — are mobilizing in an historic wave of collective action. We are demanding a fairer economy and a more just society, rejecting the broken economic rules and political system that prioritize a few wealthy interests over the public good, including workers.

Nowhere has that discrepancy been clearer than in the halls of the Supreme Court. After a single term on the bench, Neil Gorsuch has already proven how much harm a corporate-minded justice can inflict on everyday people. Whether silencing our voices on the job or suppressing our votes on Election Day, the highest court in the land has shamelessly catered to the demands of the wealthy and well-connected at the expense of our rights and freedoms.

We can’t afford another justice who rules on an agenda of a few. We need someone who will rule in the interest of a fair, just and democratic society. Yet, over the course of his entire career, Brett Kavanaugh has proven himself to be just the opposite.

Even as documents making up 96 percent of his record have been hidden from public view, Kavanaugh’s handlers have not been able to hide his eagerness to rule against working people at every turn — on one occasion, even siding with union-busting managers at a Trump casino.

This is a man who has relentlessly fought for those few who have the most and against those of us who work the hardest. Even measured against his most conservative colleagues, Kavanaugh is nothing short of a judicial extremist. He has defended dangerous workplaces, attempted to strip health care from millions of Americans and actively undermined our right to stand together in strong unions.

Speaking at Yale Law School on Friday, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka put it succinctly: “The threat to the rights of working people posed by the nomination of Judge Kavanaugh cannot be overstated…[He] would return workplace law to the 19th century.”

Ruling on a case dealing with a workplace death, Kavanaugh channeled old-school robber barons, arguing that the worker, by virtue of accepting a job, should have known what she was getting into and thus the employer was without responsibility despite four previous similar deaths. In another, he argued contrary to the majority and contrary to legal precedent that undocumented workers have no rights under the National Labor Relations Act, and he would deny them the fundamental right to join a union.

It’s the sort of extremism that would seem to conflict sharply with the brand of politics long portrayed by Sen. Susan Collins. She has consistently offered herself to voters as a moderate, reasonable voice in Washington, even voting once to save the health care law Kavanaugh is eager to overturn. Collins has also been quick to describe herself as a friend and ally of hardworking Mainers.

Now is the time to live up to that promise. This is an historic moment, and she has a pivotal decision to make — one that will clearly demonstrate her loyalties when it matters most.

There’s no margin for error. We deserve better than a corporate court and we expect our representatives in Washington to act accordingly. If Sen. Collins has even a sliver of concern for the future of this state’s working families, she will take a firm stand and reject this nomination. A failure to do so will move our country one significant step further away from a government of, by and for the people that the Supreme Court exists to balance and protect.

Cynthia Phinney is president of the Maine AFL-CIO and lives in Livermore Falls.

Cynthia Phinney


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