Kavanaugh Democrats Won’t Lose Union Cash

Leaders of some of the country’s largest labor unions say Brett Kavanaugh is a threat to workers, but they’re not ready to withhold campaign money from anyone who votes to put him on the U.S. Supreme Court.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka and Lee Saunders, president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, told reporters they’re focused on mobilizing members against Kavanaugh’s nomination rather than issuing ultimatums to the senators who will vote on his bid for a high court seat.

“This is at the top of the list for us,” Trumka said in response to a question from Bloomberg Law. He added that union members will “vote against people at the ballot box” if they “vote for Judge Kavanaugh and swing the court in favor of corporate interests.”

“We are exerting an enormous amount of pressure on elected officials and we are educating our members,” Saunders said. “They make up their own minds. When they see what is happening, they’re going to react to that.”

American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten didn’t respond to the question of whether the union will continue to support lawmakers who vote for Kavanaugh. Labor unions traditionally have been significant players in campaign funding and often back Democrats.

Kavanaugh appears to have the support of a majority of Senate Republicans, but he could need some help from Democrats if one or more GOP lawmakers oppose the nomination. Some Senate Democrats facing tough re-election races in states President Donald Trump won in 2016 have yet to say publicly whether they will vote to confirm Kavanaugh. That list includes Sens. Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.), Joe Manchin(W.Va.), Joe Donnelly (Ind.), Bill Nelson (Fla.), and Claire McCaskill (Mo.).

The Senate is expected to vote on the nomination in the weeks after its August recess. That could be delayed by Democrats’ demands to review hundreds of thousands of documents related to his work in the George W. Bush administration.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Aug. 1 sent a “key vote” letter to lawmakers supporting Kavanaugh’s nomination.

“Judge Kavanaugh has repeatedly demonstrated that he treats all who come before him seeking justice with the utmost dignity and respect that every party in our legal system deserves,” Chamber President Thomas Donohue wrote.

The Supreme Court in recent months issued two decisions striking blows to unions and worker advocates. The justices banned “fair share” fees for public-sector workers who choose not to join a union and said businesses can force workers to sign class action waivers.

Trumka and other union leaders pointed to a 2012 decision in which Kavanaugh helped block workers from unionizing at a Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City, N.J. They also cited a dissenting opinion in which Kavanaugh opposed a $70,000 fine against Sea World after a worker at the Orlando, Fla., theme park was killed by a whale.

“We don’t need another justice who only listens to the whispers of the wealthy few,” Trumka said.

(Updated with additional comments from Trumka and information on Kavanaugh appeals court decisions.)

To contact the reporter on this story: Chris Opfer in New York at copfer@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Peggy Aulino at maulino@bloomberglaw.com; Terence Hyland at thyland@bloomberglaw.com