New York State has long been a leader in advancing women's equality, stretching back to the Seneca Falls Convention 166 years ago this weekend. Sadly, as we mark this important anniversary, hard-won victories by the women's rights movement are being threatened by a radical right wing that seeks to roll back the progress we've made.
The ability for ordinary working people to organize and collectively bargain over their wages and working conditions is a fundamental human right. It is a right just as critical to a democratic society as the right to free speech and the right to vote. Over the last 30 years many in corporate America and the big Wall Street banks have conducted a sustained attack on that human right. Unionization dropped from 20.1 percent of the workforce in 1983 to 11. 3 percent in 2013 -- and the results are there for everyone to see. The simple fact is that absent government regulation and collective bargaining agreements, the market by itself does not assure that everyone shares in the fruits of society's increased economic productivity. In fact, we know that just the opposite is true.
So while a business corporation can't go to church, fast on Yom Kippur, or travel to Mecca for Ramadan, it can still go to court and, on the basis of religious freedom, demand to be exempted from the law that applies to everyone else. Today, women are the victim. Tomorrow, it could be LGBT people. Indeed, after Hobby Lobby, every person is at risk. Everyone, that is, except the corporate person, my friend.
One of the most durable legal doctrines is stare decisis, the idea that courts should follow legal precedents in the interest of stability and predictability of law. But some precedents, especially precedents in Fourth Amendment search and seizure jurisprudence, become meaningless when technology intrudes.