People wait in line to enter the U.S. Supreme Court last month. The court sided with businesses on not allowing class-action lawsuits for federal labor violations.
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Updated at 7:08 p.m. ET
In a case involving the rights of tens of millions of private sector employees, the U.S. Supreme Court, by a 5-4 vote, delivered a major blow to workers, ruling for the first time that workers may not band together to challenge violations of federal labor laws.
Writing for the majority, Justice Neil Gorsuch said that the 1925 Federal Arbitration Act trumps the National Labor Relations Act and that employees who sign employment agreements to arbitrate claims must do so on an individual basis — and may not band together to enforce claims of wage and hour violations.
"The policy may be debatable but the law is clear: Congress has instructed that arbitration agreements like those before us must be enforced as written," Gorsuch writes. "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."
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, writing for the four dissenters, called the majority opinion "egregiously wrong." She said the 1925 arbitration law came well before federal labor laws and should not cover these "arm-twisted," "take-it-or-leave it" provisions that employers are now insisting on.
She noted that workers' claims are usually small, and many workers fear retaliation. For these reasons, she said, relatively few workers avail themselves of the arbitration option. On the other hand, these problems are largely by a class-action suit brought in court on behalf of many employees.
The inevitable result of Monday's decision, she warned, will be huge underenforcement of federal and state laws designed to advance the well-being of vulnerable workers. It is up to Congress, she added, to correct the court's action.
In his oral announcement, Gorsuch took the unusual step of elaborately rebutting Ginsburg's dissent, which is five pages longer than the majority's opinion.
A green light for employers
The ruling came in three cases — potentially involving tens of thousands of nonunion employees — brought against Ernst & Young LLP, Epic Systems Corp. and Murphy Oil USA Inc.
Each required its individual employees, as a condition of employment, to waive their rights to join a class-action suit. In all three cases, employees tried to sue together, maintaining that the amounts they could obtain in individual arbitration were dwarfed by the legal fees they would have to pay. Ginsburg's dissent noted that a typical Ernst & Young employee would likely have to spend $200,000 to recover only about $1,900 in overtime pay.
The employees contended that their right to collective action is guaranteed by the National Labor Relations Act. The employers countered that they are entitled to ban collective legal action under the Federal Arbitration Act, which was enacted in 1925 to reverse the judicial hostility to arbitration at the time.
Employment lawyers were elated. Ron Chapman, who represents management in labor-management disputes, said he expects small and large businesses alike to immediately move to impose these binding arbitration contracts to eliminate the fear of costly class-action verdicts from juries. "It gives employers the green light to eliminate their single largest employment law risk with the stroke of a pen," he said.
Implications for #MeToo
Labor law experts said Monday's decision very likely will present increasing problems for the #MeToo movement, and for other civil rights class actions claiming discrimination based on race, gender and religion. There is no transparency in most binding arbitration agreements, and they often include nondisclosure provisions. What's more, class actions deal with the expense and fear of retaliation problems of solo claims. As Ginsburg put it, "there's safety in numbers."
Yale Law professor Judith Resnik observed that the decision applies to all manner of class actions. "What this says is that when you buy something, use something, or work for someone, that entity can require you to waive your right to use public courts," she noted.
Cornell University labor law professor Angela Cornell expects the number of these litigation waivers to skyrocket now. "What we see is the privatization of our justice system," she said.
A study by the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute shows that 56 percent of nonunion private sector employees are currently subject to mandatory individual arbitration procedures under the 1925 Federal Arbitration Act, which allows employers to bar collective legal actions by employees.
The court's decision means that tens of millions of private nonunion employees will be barred from suing collectively over the terms of their employment.
We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the Blessings of liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
Section. 1. All legislative Powers herein granted shall be vested in a congress of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate and House of Representatives.
Section. 1. The judicial Power of the United States, shall be vested in one Supreme Court, and in such inferior courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish. The Judges, both of the supreme and inferior Courts, shall hold their Offices during good Behavior, and shall, at stated Times, receive for their Services, a compensation, which shall not be diminished during their continuance in Office.
Section. 2. The judicial Power shall extend to all Cases, in Law and Equity, arising under this Constitution, the Laws of the United States....
A MESSAGE FROM 1917 TO 2017
When in the Course of human Events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the Political Bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the Powers of the Earth, the separate and equal Station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent Respect to the Opinions of Mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the Separation.
We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness--That to secure these right, governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the consent of the governed, that whenever any Form of government becomes destructive of these Ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such Principles, and organizing its Powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to affect their Safety and Happiness....
Israel, which has conducted several air raids in neighboring Syria, now brags it is the first country to use the US-made F-35 in combat to “attack” targets in the Middle East. It did not specify the targets.
“We are flying the F-35 all over the Middle East. It had become part of our operational capabilities,” Israel Air Force Commander Major-General Amikam Norkin said at the AF Senior Air Force Conference in Herzilya on Tuesday.
Norkin further stated that “We are the first to attack using the F-35 in the Middle East and have already attacked twice on different fronts.” The Israeli Air Force chief, however, left out the part about which targets were actually hit by the jets, though Tel Aviv recently launched a massive attack inside war-ravaged neighbor Syria. It has also been blamed for a number of similar attacks, though weaker in scale. This has only fueled tensions in the region, triggering a fierce reaction from Damascus.
Israel has been “managing a campaign against Iranian forces, especially on Israel’s northern border” for the past two years, Norkin stressed, adding that Iran launched 32 missiles toward Israel in early May.
In February, Tel Aviv launched a large-scale air raid in Syria after intercepting what it said was an Iranian drone in Israeli airspace. A top commander in the Israeli Air Force later bragged the airstrikes were “the biggest and most significant attack the air force has conducted against Syrian air defenses since Operation Peace for the Galilee” during the Lebanese Civil War in 1982.
Tensions between the two rivals flared up again in April when Israeli F-15 fighters reportedly targeted Syria’s T-4 airbase in Homs province. At least seven Iranian military personnel were killed in the strike, which was slammed by Tehran as “a blatant violation of international law which would strengthen terrorists.”
In 2015, Tel Aviv introduced the Gideon Doctrine, which set out a series of reforms for the army by 2020. One of the key issues was the purchase of US-made F-35 planes.
The stealth fighter continues to be plagued, however, by various faults, including malfunctions of the oxygen-supply system. In 2017, a Pentagon report revealed the jet had more than 270 deficiencies, ranging from software trouble to structural problems. https://www.rt.com/news/427383-israel-f35-middle-east/
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Why is it that the United States is allowed to have allies, and Iran is not? The US is an imperial White Man (neocolonial) power meddling in the business of the Middle East. If the US can be allied to Israel and Saudi Arabia (a Sunni Arab nation), why can’t Iran (a Shia Persian nation) ally itself with fellow Shia nations in the Middle East. Americans are too fond of minding other nations business (for profit and mayhem) while we let our democracy slip into Fascism where we have no civil right, while trying to give them to others who see us as the neocolonialist that we are.
Iran hate the Taliban. They are Sunnis and they hate the Shia people. In fact as James Risen has pointed out in State of War this is why Iran helped the Bush administration in gaining entrance into Afghanistan. Warmongers like Trump and Pompeo hidden agenda is to make Israel the Suzerain of the Middle East in the image of the Union of South Africa—ruling over the darkies—carrying on The White Man’s Burden to Christianized the heathen. In order to do this the two remaining enemies that Israel fears: Syria and Iran must be “flattened” (like Libya and Lebanon)--completely destroyed.
The United States has erased 1953 and replaced it with the victimization of 1978, but the Ayatollahs have not forgotten.
We the people are forced to listen to how terrible the Venezuela administration is. But as I listened to how the election in Venezuela was handled, I see no difference in how the Trump elections was handled. The peoples of Latin America, like the people of Iran, have no reason to trust the United States. It has always deceived them and kept them poor. It was not until the so-called War on Terror that the countries in the Western hemisphere were allowed to prosper. Right now the CIA cannot afford the manpower to inforce its Gunboat Diplomacy in South America. It is too busy in Afghanistan and the Middle East to wage more than a war of words from Trump’s warmongering sycophant: Vice President Pence.