Not surprisingly, comments to NPR’s Facebook post with its story Monday of the U.S. Supreme Court, has brought out the worries that unions will be dismantled.
Here’s an example:
Get used to it, you peasants! Soon the unions will be completely gone and you’ll be thankful to work for pennies! Maybe you’ll have to buy all your work supplies and necessities from the company store, and slip into indentured servitude!
Think it can’t happen? Take one look at the orange abomination in the White House. Then think about the deluded #MAGA hat idiots that voted for him and against their best interests. Then tell me again it won’t come to serfdom eventually!!
This Supreme Court decision is a blow to the rights of American workers—union and non-union—effectively eliminating individuals' ability to seek recourse for employer abuses. #SCOTUS https://t.co/ziF2qLcros
— Liuba GrechenShirley (@liuba4congress) May 21, 2018
Today’s decision preventing some workers from banding together to challenge company policies and labor practices — written by Justice Neil Gorsuch — is certainly an erosion of worker rights. But it doesn’t have anything to do with unions — at least not directly.
The issue in this case focuses on workers who aren’t covered by collective bargaining — a union — and are employed under arbitration contracts in which an employee is required to settle a dispute individually with an arbitrator rather than through the courts.
In his opinion (available here), Gorsuch said workers at Murphy Oil, who claimed the company wasn’t paying overtime and required them to work off the clock, were trying a “triple bank shot” by claiming the Fair Labor Standards Act gave them the right to sue in a class action case, when the federal Arbitration Act mandated that a court couldn’t undue the decision in required arbitration.
Congress has instructed that arbitration agreements like those before us must be enforced as written. While Congress is of course always free to amend this judgment, we see nothing suggesting it did so in the NLRA — much less that it manifested a clear intention to displace the Arbitration Act. Because we can easily read Congress’s statutes to work in harmony, that is where our duty lies.
This is clearly a win for business over workers, who will be required to waive guarantees under the National Labor Relations Act as a condition of employment.
“There can be no serious doubt that collective litigation is one way workers may associate with one another to improve their lot,” Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg wrote in her dissent on behalf of the court’s liberal wing.
“The law could hardly be otherwise: Employees’ rights to band together to meet their employers’ superior strength would be worth precious little if employers could condition employment on workers signing away those rights,” she wrote.
About half of the nation’s non-union employers require employees to workers are employed under some sort of arbitration contract that requires them to face down their company one-on-one before an arbitrator.
Today’s decision will drastically reduce the number of claims against them.
But it’s also possible — and this is obviously a long-term outlook — that the dispatch of worker rights could begin to stir a slumbering tiger, sending more workers into the waiting arms of labor unions.