Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Supporting Corporations Of The United States

It's not a good week for our big box overlords around here on NWF. Although in the rest of the world, they're sitting pretty.

The Supreme Court ruled that a massive class-action lawsuit brought against Wal-Mart goes too far. This is a happy day for big business and a terrible day for working people, especially women.

As I understand it, female Wal-Mart employees filed a class-action lawsuit against the corporate giant because they were being paid less than men and receiving fewer promotions. Wal-Mart said that decisions like who was getting paid what were left in the hands of managers. Of course, if most of the managers are men, and a boys'-club atmosphere is encouraged down the corporate ladder, that's not going to be conducive to the whole equal-pay-for-equal-work thing, as was argued in the dissenting opinion.

This decision from the court does not say that Wal-Mart is not guilty of gender bias, just that these women can't pursue a class-action lawsuit, because their cases do not hang together sufficiently to have them tried together. This is because of Wal-Mart's point that the decisions were not based in corporate policy, but were made at lower levels. This is too disparate to fulfill the requirement that they be cohesive claims, according to the majority opinion.

All of the women on the court, plus Breyer, thought the decision should go forward. The others, all men, did not. I am not convinced that is a coincidence. Also, the Roberts court will, apparently, always make pro-business decisions (see also: Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission, which people have been heralding as the end of democracy as we thought we knew it).

As several people have pointed out, it's not as though the women can't still sue as individuals. They certainly can. But part of the benefit of having a class action lawsuit is that it gives the people involved a fighting chance. There is no way an individual with standing to sue Wal-Mart over a pay discrepancy will be able to afford legal representation that can sufficiently challenge Wal-Mart on her own. Having a class is kind of like having a union: it lets regular people have a shot against the big business.

It's 2011, and we're still suing about gender bias in pay and promotions. I know I'm not meant to be surprised by that - or by the decision - but just because something isn't a surprise doesn't mean it doesn't suck. The privileging of business interests over the welfare of the people on the part of SCOTUS is horrifying and gross. It is one more sign that our government is favoring corporations over people, and we can't even vote the Justices out. Clarence Thomas has known connections to the Koch brothers, and no mention has been made of his resignation. And don't even get me started on Congress. This corporate ownership of politics has me very worried.

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