Trump’s war on workers continues with US Supreme Court ruling
A US Supreme Court ruling this week strips a critical protection against wage theft, discrimination, and other labour law violations by severely limiting the ability for millions of workers to file-class action lawsuits against employer abuse.
According to the Epic Systems Corp. v. Lewis ruling, workers who have signed forced-arbitration agreements are barred from collective action--meaning that employers now have the right to demand that labour violations are resolved individually rather than solved through collective litigation.
Often, workers are unable to pursue individual remedies because they are too costly, too time consuming, or workers cannot find legal representation.
Roughly 25 million US workers have signed arbitration agreements—often unknowingly or with the threat of termination—and this decision by the country’s high court will likely increase the use of these contracts.
“Five justices on the Supreme Court decided that it is acceptable for working people to have our legal rights taken away by corporations in order to keep our jobs,” said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka. “This decision forcing workers to sign away the right to file class-action suits against such illegal employment practices as wage theft, sexual harassment and discrimination is outrageous—and it is wrong.”
Mary Kay Henry of the SEIU echoed that sentiment by saying, “No person working in the United States should have to sign away their rights just to have a job.”
The ruling is especially harmful because workers need effective tools to counterbalance corporate power now more than ever. The attack on workers’ rights has ramped up under the Trump administration. It has backpedalled on regulations expanding overtime pay for millions of workers; weakened or delayed workplace safety regulations; and made anti-labour appointments to the Department of Labor, Department of Education, and the U.S. Supreme Court, including Justice Neil Gorsuch who wrote the decision for this case.
Despite these attacks, the US labour movement grew by 260,000 members last year, and unions and their allies are already starting to push back against ruling. Congress could restore the right to class status through legislation.
“Justice was not served with this disgusting decision, and the global labour movement will stand shoulder to shoulder with our US brothers and sisters,” said Philip Jennings, General Secretary of UNI Global Union. “Systemic and widespread violations of workers rights should be solved in a systemic and collective way. This is a way to let employers off the hook for their worst behaviour, and we won’t let it stand.”