Supreme Court assault on workers’ rights begins with arbitration case

The United States Supreme Court ruled this week in the Epic Systems Corp. v. Lewis case that companies may require workers to settle employment disputes through individual arbitration rather than banding together to complain about pay and conditions in the workplace.

With the court’s five conservative justices in the majority, the ruling on the case was written by President Donald Trump’s appointee, Neil Gorsuch, who is continuing a history of anti-worker legal philosophy. The four dissenting justices said the decision will hit low-wage workers the hardest.

While this case revolved around pay issues, the outcome might also extend to workplace discrimination, pregnancy discrimination, sexual harassment and other disputes if employee contracts specify that they must be dealt with in one-on-one arbitration.

As many as 25 million non-union workers will be affected by this decision, which represents the first of at least two devastating blows to workers’ rights during this session. Next, the court sets its sights on public sector unions in the Janus v. AFSCME Council 31 case. If this week’s decision is any indication, the court is set to turn the entire country right-to-work in the public sector by overturning the longstanding Abood v. Detroit Board of Education case.

“This week’s ruling is just the beginning of a comprehensive assault on workers’ rights,” Council 13 Executive Director David Fillman said.

“Now that Gorsuch and his fellow conservative justices have made it harder for non-union workers to band together, public sector workers are next as the court prepares to rule on the Janus case.”

A ruling on Janus v. AFSCME Council 31 is expected by the end of June. To find out ways to help fight this infringement on union rights, please contact Council 13, your district council, your staff representative or your local union officers.

Click here to read AFSCME International President Lee Saunders’ statement on the Supreme Court’s decision on Epic Systems Corp. v. Lewis.