fresh voices from the front lines of change







From Colorado's legal elites, we've been hearing praise in the media for Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch. But for the majority of Coloradans — and Americans — who are everyday working people, Judge Gorsuch's record bodes ill.

I recognize that Sen. Cory Gardner has expressed support for Judge Gorsuch, while Sen. Michael Bennet has yet to express his view. But I urge both to look beyond the savvy publicity campaign promoting Judge Gorsuch and to examine his record, because there is still time before both must vote on Gorsuch's nomination.

The reality is that throughout his career, Judge Gorsuch has shown a pattern of siding in favor of employers, wealthy corporations and Wall Street — against working families in Colorado and around the country.

I urge Senators to learn about the cases of Alphonse Maddin, Compass Environmental, Inc. and Betty Pinkerton, as well as others. Each time, Judge Gorsuch cast his vote and wrote opinions to deny critical remedies when workers were wronged.

In a disturbing case that has gotten some press, Alphonse Maddin was fired for leaving the cargo-laden trailer of his truck after its brakes froze from subzero temperatures. With no heat in his cab, Maddin had awaited a repair truck for several hours and he got numb, had trouble breathing and lost feeling in his feet.

A Tenth Circuit majority in TransAm Trucking v. Administrative Review Board said Maddin deserved reinstatement. An earlier Department of Labor proceeding also favored Maddin. Judge Gorsuch disagreed, saying "there's simply no law anyone has pointed us to giving employees the right to operate their vehicles in ways their employers forbid."

In Compass Environmental v. Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission, Judge Gorsuch sided with an employer although a federal agency fined it for failing to properly train a worker. The employee was electrocuted when a piece of equipment got too close to an overhead power line at a worksite in Fort Lupton.

Dissenting from the court's majority, Judge Gorsuch said the case represented yet another example of an administrative agency wielding remarkable powers and penalizing a company where there was no evidence to support a fine.

In Pinkerton v. Colorado Department of Transportation, Betty Pinkerton, an administrative assistant, alleged that her supervisor made inappropriate sexually-explicit remarks to her for several months and that she was fired when she reported the harassment.

Judge Gorsuch downplayed evidence of discrimination and joined a majority opinion concluding that her performance resulted in her firing.

These cases are not alone in showing how Judge Gorsuch substituted his own judgment for those of federal agencies tasked with protecting workers' rights, and how he favored an employer over a worker in a discrimination case. Other parts of his record reinforce these themes.

Judge Gorsuch joined a ruling in Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. v. Sebelius embracing the view that private corporations are persons with rights that trump those of other Americans. He agreed that these corporations may deny contraceptive coverage to workers as part of their employer-sponsored health insurance plans.

He also has voiced support for legal theories that could jeopardize important protections for workers as well as clean air, clean water, and safe food and medicine that each of us relies on every day.

Where's the justice in all of these views and others that would erode some of our most fundamental rights and protections? Regrettably, his record reveals a judge whose sympathies lie with the most powerful interests. It's a formula for tilting the scales of justice against the vulnerable.

It's not surprising that there are those in our legal community who applaud the nomination of someone who is their associate, neighbor or friend to the pinnacle of the judicial system.

But Colorado workers and their families have a different view. And if senators are paying attention, they will realize that a "no" vote on Judge Gorsuch is the only vote that serves these families.

Ken Grossinger lives in Telluride and Washington, D.C. He worked for years in the American labor movement. Today he is chairman of the board of Alliance for Justice.

Cross-posted with permission from Boulder County's Daily Camera

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