Mojo - June 2014

Here Is the Supreme Court's Decision in the Hobby Lobby Contraception Case

Mon Jun. 30, 2014 9:46 AM EDT

On Monday, the Supreme Court issued a decision in Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. The court ruled that most companies do not have to cover contraception for their employees if the company has a religious objection to doing so. Here is the decision:

 

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Read the Supreme Court's Decision in The Blockbuster Labor Case Harris v. Quinn

Mon Jun. 30, 2014 9:13 AM EDT

We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for June 30, 2014

Mon Jun. 30, 2014 8:31 AM EDT

US Marines rappel from a helicopter in a training exercise at sea. (US Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Alisa Helin)

Map: These Are the Places Central American Child Migrants Are Fleeing

| Fri Jun. 27, 2014 2:48 PM EDT

A recently produced infographic from the Department of Homeland Security shows that the majority of unaccompanied children coming to the United States are from some of the most violent and impoverished parts of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras.

The map documents the origins of child migrants apprehended by the Border Patrol from January 1 to May 14. It was made public by Adam Isaacson of the Washington Office on Latin America, a human rights organization, and it includes the following analysis about the surge in child migrants:

…Many Guatemalan children come from rural areas, indicating that they are probably seeking economic opportunities in the US. Salvadoran and Honduran children, on the other hand, come from extremely violent regions where they probably perceive the risk of traveling alone to the US preferable to remaining at home.

This echoes what I found in my yearlong investigation into the explosion of unaccompanied child migrants arriving to the United States. As I wrote in the July/August issue of Mother Jones:

Although some have traveled from as far away as Sri Lanka and Tanzania, the bulk are minors from Mexico and from Central America's so-called Northern Triangle—Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador, which together account for 74 percent of the surge. Long plagued by instability and unrest, these countries have grown especially dangerous in recent years: Honduras imploded following a military coup in 2009 and now has the world's highest murder rate. El Salvador has the second-highest, despite the 2012 gang truce between Mara Salvatrucha and Barrio 18. Guatemala, new territory for the Zetas cartel, has the fifth-highest murder rate; meanwhile, the cost of tortillas has doubled as corn prices have skyrocketed due to increased American ethanol production (Guatemala imports half of its corn) and the conversion of farmland to sugarcane and oil palm for biofuel.

Below is a more granular look at where kids are coming from, also produced by DHS. San Pedro Sula, the world's most violent city, was home to the largest number of child migrants caught by the Border Patrol (more than 2,500). Honduras' capital, Tegucigalpa, sent the second-most kids, fewer than 1,000.

 

We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for June 27, 2014

Fri Jun. 27, 2014 7:59 AM EDT

US Marine Corps recruits go through chemical warfare defense training. (US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Octavia Davis)

Unions Should Brace Themselves for a Major Supreme Court Loss

| Thu Jun. 26, 2014 12:04 PM EDT

It's official: The Supreme Court will wait until Monday, the final day of the current term, to issue its decision in Harris v. Quinn. As I explained in May, Harris is a blockbuster case that could, in a worst-case scenario, wipe public-employee unions such as SEIU and AFSCME off the map. And the chances of a damaging decision in Harris just increased—here's why.

Heading into Thursday, the Supreme Court had Harris and three other cases left to decide. The justices chose to issue their opinions concerning presidential recess appointments (Noel Canning v. National Labor Relations Board) and so-called buffer zones keeping protesters at a distance from abortion clinics (McCullen v. Coakley). Justice Stephen Breyer, a liberal member of the court, wrote the Canning opinion; Chief Justice John Roberts, a conservative, took the lead in McCullen.

This makes it more likely that Justice Samuel Alito, who we've yet to hear much from, will write the opinion in Harris, which points to bad news for public-employee unions. "There's almost no question [Justice] Alito has this opinion unless he lost his majority along way," tweets Rick Hasen, a University of California-Irvine law professor. "Anti-union is his signature issue."

Labor officials can only hope Hasen is wrong. Alito is strongly anti-union. In the 2012 case Knox v. SEIU, Alito essentially invited labor's foes to challenge the basic model of public-employee unionism, in which non-union employees can be made to pay dues to a union for bargaining on their behalf, representing them in grievance issues, etc. Harris makes such a challenge; it's what Alito asked for.

Unions like to call those non-member payments "fair share" dues. If it's the union's job, they reason, to represent all members and nonmembers in a unionized workplace, then all those workers should pay their fair share for that representation. Conservatives—and Alito—say fair-share fees violate the First Amendment rights of non-union workers.

The outcome in Harris could cut a number of ways. The Supreme Court could uphold the lower court's decision dismissing the suit—a big union victory. It could strike down fair share fees—the equivalent of Congress passing a national right-to-work bill. (Right-to-work laws ban unions from collecting those fair-share fees from non-members.) Public-employee unions would survive that decision, but it would be a blow. The court could also effectively enact right-to-work nationwide and kneecap a union's ability to exclusively represent employees in a unionized workplace. That would be catastrophic for public-employee unions.

If there's any judge who might go that far, it would be Samuel Alito.

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Read the Supreme Court's Decision Striking Down Abortion Clinic Buffer Zones

| Thu Jun. 26, 2014 9:52 AM EDT

Read our explainer of the Court's ruling here.

 

Read the Supreme Court's Decision on Obama's Recess Appointment Power

| Thu Jun. 26, 2014 9:17 AM EDT

On Thursday, the Supreme Court struck a blow to the president's ability to use recess appointments, rejecting his ability to sidestep pro-forma sessions of Congress. Read the court's full opinion below:

 

 

 

We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for June 26, 2014

Thu Jun. 26, 2014 8:37 AM EDT

A US Marine trains to breathe underwater on an emergency air supply at the Marine Corps Base in Hawaii. (US Marine Corps Photo by Cpl. Matthew Callahan)

Watch Two US Congressmen Battle Each Other With Prince Songs

| Wed Jun. 25, 2014 4:23 PM EDT

Wednesday marks the 30th anniversary of the release of Prince and The Revolution's album Purple Rain, the soundtrack to the 1984 film of the same name. So, obviously, at least a couple lawmakers were going to mark the occasion by singing and strumming Prince music.

Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), a congressman from Prince's home state, picked up an acoustic guitar and sang a cover of "Purple Rain" (he got the lyrics wrong, but still). Here's a Vine of his Prince tribute:

Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-NY) responded with his own acoustic Prince cover of "Raspberry Beret"—which isn't from Purple Rain, but whatever:

The two Democrats later expressed a desire to jam, possibly to Bruce Springsteen. Perhaps Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) can weigh in next with "Let's Go Crazy."

Prince did not respond to Mother Jones' request for comment on what he thought about the elected representatives doing battle with his songs as glorious weaponry.