Classless Action: Wal-Mart’s Supreme Court War On Workers

Classless Action: Wal-Mart’s Supreme Court War On Workers

The U.S. Supreme Court is going to announce whether or not they will hear a job bias case against Wal-Mart Inc. for discriminating against women, and whether the case will be heard as a class action lawsuit. Wal-Mart claims that one case cannot speak for thousands of employees’ complaints and the lawsuits should be handled individually. Wal-Mart has been joined by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and several large corporations in seeking to end class action lawsuits.

The case centers around a claim that Wal-Mart shortchanged women in wages and promotions, and the lawyer for the plaintiffs claims Wal-Mart was preoccupied with growth and left personnel policies in place that were 20 to 30 years old and discriminatory to women. It is a common complaint with retail giants like Wal-Mart, and if in their own words, there are 1,000s of cases, it is almost certain that they discriminated in the past and in the present. The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages because the pool is so large, but estimates claim a settlement could be billions.

If the court does hear the case, it will almost certainly rule in favor of Wal-Mart because this conservative, business friendly court has allowed campaign contributions from foreign countries as a result of the Citizen’s United ruling. The concern of civil rights activists is that the court may deal a blow to consumers and workers by ending the ability for class action lawsuits that are the only recourse to punish large corporations for cheating employees and consumers alike.

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Republicans have tried to end class action lawsuits in order to protect corporations from meeting their responsibilities, and to avoid following regulations meant to protect consumers and employees. Republicans have also voted against equal pay for women and recently blocked gender equality legislation meant to protect women in the workplace.

The best outcome is for the Supreme Court to not hear the case that was started in 2001 in San Francisco. After nine years, Wal-Mart’s lawyers have appealed every judgment that sided with the plaintiffs. Wal-Mart’s appealing every decision shows they have the resources and time to shirk their responsibility and wait out the employee who was discriminated against. They know that most employees cannot match their legal team and budget which is why they prefer thousands of individual lawsuits. They would win most individual cases by attrition.

Wal-Mart, the Chamber of Commerce, and large corporations want to end class action lawsuits the same reason they fight against union organizers. Republicans side with corporations by blocking legislation that gives employees and consumers equal footing, and their preference is for big business to have the advantage. When thousands of workers or consumers band together in class action lawsuits, or employee unions, the corporate giants lose their advantage, and by extension, their profit margin.

Large corporations who disregard discrimination laws and cannot get legislation changed by the Republicans take the next logical step by going before the corporation friendly conservative court to make existing laws null and void. It happened with Citizen’s United, and it is going to happen with anti-discrimination laws.  It should be noted that Republicans blocked the Paycheck Fairness act to ensure that women do not receive equitable pay, and taking away class action lawsuits guarantees women will continue being discriminated against with the court’s approval.

Republicans have pushed for tort reform claiming that it is too costly, but their goal is to restrict consumers and employees from suing for damages when a business or corporation cheats it customers and employees. It is obvious that Republicans and the Supreme Court have a shared goal of forcing the public to submit to the will and whim of the corporate world. Republicans have routinely blocked legislation that benefits ordinary citizens or holds corporations accountable to the law of the land.

The Supreme Court is not supposed to work for corporations whose sole intent is to maneuver around existing laws until Robert’s and his conservative posse can render a decision that removes laws that protect consumers and employees.

Republicans and conservatives complain that activist judges legislate from the bench until the Supreme Court is involved because they know the court will rule in the favor of business and Republicans. When Republicans cannot influence legislation, they turn to the court to change laws meant to protect citizens so they favor corporations.

Wal-Mart has a horrible record of treating their employees with disdain and taking advantage of poor people who need a job. By their own admission, there are thousands of cases against them they do not want lumped together so they can drag out the process and win by attrition. The case of job bias the Supreme Court is deciding began in 2001, and they have managed to drag it out for 9 years. If the U.S. Supreme Court rules that it cannot be heard as a class action, the plaintiffs will have to fight their cases individually, and at the rate of 9 years waiting for a decision, most will throw in the towel.

This case should be left alone and the court should do the right thing and work for the American people for a change. They have given every advantage to corporate America, and now they are going to kill the workers’ only recourse to combat illegal job discrimination. Republicans blocked the Paycheck Fairness act, and to add insult to injury, the conservative court will give approval for corporations like Wal-Mart to continue their practice of paycheck unfairness, especially for women. It is after all, the conservative way.

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