Let’s talk about the Supreme Court.
As I write this article, I am hours away from recording one of the largest 4th of July firework shows in the country. I am front and center in the heart of Americana. This is my favorite holiday. From a very young age, I’ve loved everything about it. The festivities and traditions are over-the-top and beautiful, the food is fantastic, and we get to watch things blow up in the sky. There really isn’t anything more American than that. This year, it has been a little harder to feel patriotic when Independence Day rolled around.
On June 24, when the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization ruling broke, I was sitting in the Hollywood Burbank Airport, on my way to represent Local 695 at the District 2 Convention in San Francisco. I found myself raging as I paced through the terminal, trying to make sense of this situation. How could we fix this? How could we make it right? Eventually, I fell back on a question I usually ask myself when I’m feeling stuck.
What would Ruth Bader Ginsburg do?
In trying to find the answer to this question, I was astounded to learn that the late Justice Ginsburg was a vocal critic of the Roe v. Wade ruling. To be sure, she remained a vocal proponent of reproductive rights until the day that she died, but to my surprise, she had her own grievances with the ruling. She felt that the Supreme Court of 1973 had been remiss in ascribing the right to reproductive freedom as being enshrined in the Constitution’s limited Right to Privacy, believing instead that that right fell within the purview of the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause. Had the court ruled on the basis of Equal Protection, the rights protected by their ruling may have been more insulated from legal challenge.
She also argued that at the time of Roe v. Wade’s ruling, the country was in a state of fluidity. The nation was undergoing a philosophical realignment at the time. Her theory held that if we had left the issue of legalization of rights to incremental change at its natural pace rather than the abrupt, hardline stance that Roe v. Wade imposed upon all state rights, the country may have adapted to the change better and this issue may not have become as polarizing a subject as we know it to be today. There is a lot to be learned from Justice Ginsburg’s lectures on the subject.
My personal takeaway from this has been to re-evaluate my own approach to progress and change.
• Perhaps our first approach to securing and maintaining our freedoms is not the best strategy or method to do so.
• Perhaps we need to pause and consider all angles before we approach a means to cement our new and changing ideologies about the freedoms we hold important to us. This includes inviting all sides of the argument, with everyone benefiting from productive discourse.
• And when we strategize, we examine each and every path to our end goal. We need to evaluate how it will be challenged in the future, which includes stretching our brains to think of future forward policies as our country continues to evolve forward.
The loss of reproductive freedom in this country has shone a spotlight on the fact that our victories, no matter how seemingly secure, are not. There is no ruling that cannot be challenged. There is no right so sacred that it cannot be brought under attack. When we fight, it must be with the understanding that we will need to continue to defend our victories and remount challenges against our defeats.
But more importantly, as we examine each and every path to our end goal, we need to evaluate how it will be challenged in the future. We must go beyond simple victory or defeat and stretch our thinking to include policies, procedures, and protections that will enshrine our victories for years to come as our country continues to evolve forward.
The most valuable aspect of defeat is the lesson we can learn from it. At the District 2 Women’s Event on the night of the Dobbs v. Jackson ruling, a well-seasoned member of a fellow Local confided in me she was too tired to fight for the legalization of abortion again. She had given everything to the fight when she had been younger and didn’t feel that she had the strength to go through it all again. I could tell that she was overwrought with emotion and this defeat was quickly taking a toll upon her. Rather than asking her to rejoin a battle she’d long since thought settled, I asked her to make me a promise. I said that while she might feel too old and tired to fight, the next generation—my generation—still needed the wisdom that veterans of the cause like her had to offer. By studying the last generation’s fight for reproductive freedom and how we arrived as this devastating defeat, we can come back, renew the fight, and win a ruling that does more than Roe v. Wade ever did to enshrine our rights in this country. So, I asked her to “help me find a way to stop this from happening again.” And through tears, she nodded her head and affirmed me she was in.
This is no different at the union Level. What we win at the bargaining table can be lost at the ballot box, and vice versa. As we approach our next round of contract negotiations in 2024, Local 695 will be putting together a group of committees designed to look at specific contract points. We’re going to try new approaches to fighting for better terms and conditions for all of our members. We will work together as members and leadership to build forward-facing, long-term strategies for success. On my end, I will be asking each of these committees to use the above thought processes to help create the best strategies for our negotiating points to bring to the International for bargaining.
The record button is aglow and our fireworks show is being safely recorded. The sound of the fireworks is thunderous as the vibration hits the walls of our broadcast truck. The rage I felt in the airport is subsiding and converting itself into explosive determination. It’s time to start strategizing both at a federal and a local level.
Sisters, Brothers, & Kin, who is with me?