Photo: Central Penn Business Journal
Yesterday, the Supreme Court announced a major decision that further limits employee rights. Newly appointed Supreme Court, Justice Neil M. Gorsch wrote the majority opinion holding that a 1925 Arbitration held over a 1935 National Labor relations law allowing employees to sue their employers. The court held that employees can not bind together in class action law suits where they have common interests in a complaint against a company, they must use arbitration specified in the agreement. Employees are coerced into employee agreements in that they must sign them to take the job, corporations have the power in a job negotiation as they can just go to the Internet and find another 25 or 100 candidates for many jobs. The candidate cannot negotiate clauses in employment contracts with their own attorney because they want the job more than worrying about a contract clause.
Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg wrote the minority opinion outlining how unjust this decision is, a part of the opinion she read aloud in court:
“The court today holds enforceable these arm-twisted, take-it-or-leave-it contracts — including the provisions requiring employees to litigate wage and hours claims only one-by-one,” she said. “Federal labor law does not countenance such isolation of employees.”
Research supports Justice Ginsberg’s finding, in most cases the employee is more likely to lose a case in arbitration versus court suits and when judgements are won the final awards are much smaller.
Source: The Economic Policy Institute – 10/14/2016
The decision clearly is another win for corporations increasing their power over employees by severely limiting the ability of an employee to equalize the leverage with their employer in bringing a complaint. Corporations can now take on employees one by one where they will not have the attorney fire power that corporations wield.
Congress needs to pass a law to make clear that the National Labor Relations Act takes precedence over the Arbitration Law which was passed to use arbitration processes for company to company complaints. Then over the years since 1925 corporations have use their lobbying influence and ability to buy control of presidents appointed justices to extend the law to covering consumers in credit agreements and employee contracts. Corporate control of campaign funding with the Citizens United decision, succeeding Super PACs and extreme lobbying spending strengthens the hegemony of corporations over employees. It is obvious that employee power is at an all-time low as we have the lowest unemployment rate in 10 year while wages for the 80 % in income stagnant.