The US Supreme Court in May 2018 ruled against workers in Epic Systems v. Lewis declaring that employers can force employees to accept arbitration of disputes individually and give up their right to class action lawsuits in the courts. The ruling puts individual workers at a severe disadvantage in confronting corporate power.
More than half of America’s non-union workers are currently subject to this ruling’s affirmation of mandatory arbitration by employers. Furthermore many workers must agree to forego their right to act together in a class-action lawsuit when they suffer wage and hour theft, sexual harassment , racial discrimination, or a host of other workplace violations.
Forced arbitration is inherently unfair, pitting the individual worker against corporate power in a dispute-resolution procedure established by the employer. Denial of class-action lawsuits prevents workers suffering a shared complaint from acting together to seek redress in the courts.
A counter to this corporate attack upon workers’ right exists: the union
Union members do not suffer this injustice. Union members can act together under provisions of their collectively bargained grievance procedures or as a unit in the courts. Union members’ right to act jointly is secured by the National Labor Relations Act.
“Unionization offers the only effective response to this corporate strategy of required arbitration,” wrote Martin Hart-Landsberg, Prof. Emeritus of Economics at Lewis & Clark College. Writing for StreetRoots, Prof. Hart-Landsberg noted growing support for unions among young workers and increased union militancy with community involvement.
Educating nonunion workers about this unionized workplace advantage is critical. Union organizers now have another argument for joining a union.