Press Release

NNU condemns Supreme Court’s decision eviscerating role of regulatory agencies

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National Nurses United (NNU), the nation’s largest nurses’ union and professional association today condemned the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision eviscerating the role of regulatory agencies. The 6-3 decision, effectively overturned a 1984 legal precedent known as “Chevron deference,” which allows experts in regulatory agencies to define implementation of laws passed by Congress.

“Far-right corporate interests have long sought to eliminate decades of public health, environmental, workplace safety, and other safety protections to increase corporate profits and control over public policy,” said NNU President Nancy Hagans, RN. “From clean air and water to the food we eat, to safer workplaces to workers’ rights on the job, this decision is a direct threat to every American worker and family.

“The attack on regulatory agencies escalated under the administration of former President Trump and his allies in Congress with their vilification of what they have branded as the ‘deep state,’ along with the expanded domination of the Supreme Court by far-right ideologues appointed by Trump,” Hagans added. “A victory by Trump in November, with his pledge to replace nonpartisan staff in public agencies with loyalists, would exacerbate the consequences of the decision. It is a reminder of the importance of the election.

“Nurses have seen, especially throughout the Covid pandemic, how regulatory policies and enforcement were critical to reinforcing our ability to save the lives of thousands of patients, as well as protect nurses and other coworkers,” said Hagans.

NNU, Hagans said, concurs with AFL-CIO President Liz Shuler that the Court’s ultra-conservative supermajority erodes “ ‘the federal government’s ability to ensure that the law is enforced and that working people are protected. This ruling paves the way for corporate challenges to the actions of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the National Labor Relations Board, and other agencies with a duty to protect workers’ lives and rights, which would allow employers to get away with retaliation, union-busting, and maintaining dangerous workplace conditions.’ ”

“Nurses have experienced obstacles from aggressive and lawless health care employers to our ability to advocate for our patients’ safety and win union representation and collective bargaining contracts to protect our voice and our standards,” Hagans noted. That has often depended on enforcement support from the NLRB whose every decision is subject to review by the courts under Chevron deference.

Typically, regulatory agencies are staffed by experienced professionals far more versed in the arcane technical requirements of interpretation and enforcement of laws within their specific area of expertise. NNU agrees with constitutional law expert Laurence Tribe who said on social media that the “imperial judiciary” has “relegated Congress to a secondary role.”

“Nurses also regularly care for patients harmed by air pollution, cancerous products, toxic exposed food, and unsafe workplaces that may all be exacerbated by this dangerous decision,” Hagans added. “In almost every walk of life, policies crafted by experienced regulatory experts will now be increasingly likely to be struck down by the courts.”

NNU has called on Congress to enact legislation to reverse the decision, while working to increase organizing and mobilizing to protect the public and patients’ interests.

National Nurses United is the largest and fastest-growing union and professional association of registered nurses in the United States with nearly 225,000 members nationwide. NNU affiliates include California Nurses Association/National Nurses Organizing Committee, DC Nurses Association, Michigan Nurses Association, Minnesota Nurses Association, and New York State Nurses Association.NNU plays a leadership role in safeguarding the health and safety of RNs and their patients and has won landmark legislation in the areas of staffing, safe patient handling, infectious disease, and workplace violence prevention.