Thursday, December 15, 2005

Labor, disabled oppose Alito

Labor, disabled oppose Alito

By Thomas Ferraro

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The nation's largest labor federation along with a coalition of groups that represent disabled Americans on Wednesday said they opposed U.S. Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito, describing the 55-year-old conservative as a threat to worker and civil rights.

The AFL-CIO and National Coalition for Disability Rights criticized Alito's work as a federal appeals judge the past 15 years, charging he has often sided with employers over labor with an excessively restrictive view of federal law.

"Working families need and deserve Supreme Court justices who understand and respect the importance of hard-fought rights and protections, not justices who take an unduly narrow view of the law," John Sweeney, president of the more than 9-million-member AFL-CIO, wrote in a letter to U.S. senators.

The Senate Judiciary Committee is to begin a confirmation hearing on January 9 on President George W. Bush's nomination of Alito to replace retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, with the full Senate expected to decide whether to approve him late next month.

Jim Ward, head of the National Coalition for Disability Rights, urged rejection of the nominee, saying Alito could shift the balance on the high court.

"Judge Alito's record places him well outside the mainstream and clearly to the right of Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, a frequent swing vote on cases involving disability rights," Ward told a Capitol Hill news conference.

The battle over Alito has begun to look like a political campaign with conservative and liberal advocacy groups coming out for and against him, many as they air television and radio ads and circulate competing petitions.

On Tuesday, the 12,000-member National Association of Manufacturers, the country's largest industrial trade group, announced its support of Alito's nomination, hailing him as a fair-minded judge.

A coalition of civil rights groups -- led by the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund -- arranged to declare its opposition to Alito on Thursday when it also planned to release a report assessing his record on such matters as voting rights and employment discrimination.