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Supreme Court

Supreme Court Set to Roll Back 80 Years of Labor Advances

The Court announced that they will hear two cases that involve workers' rights on the job

Brian Young's picture
Sep 28, 2017

The Supreme Court has announced that they will take up two cases that could set workers’ rights back by decades. The cases Janus v. AFSCME and Epic Systems Corp. v. Lewis both center around what kind of voice workers can have in the workplace.

The first case, Janus, concerns a public-sector union’s right to collect fair share dues from employees who are covered under a collective bargaining agreement (CBA), but who chose to not be a member of the union. Janus challenges the 1977 Abood ruling that says employees covered under a collective bargaining agreement must pay their fair share for services that they receive from the union, even if they are not member, because the union is required to represent, defend and bargain for them. The Janus case wants to overturn Abood and make the entire country Right to Work for public sector employees. While conservatives claim the case is about dues being used for political donations, the reality is that anti-union forces are trying to weaken the workers voice in their workplace. Janus seeks to defund unions and take away their ability to advocate for their membership. “This is an attack on the freedom of working men and women to have a voice in the workplace,” said New York State AFL-CIO President Mario Cilento.

The second case tries to take away the workers voice in non-union workplaces. Epic Systems Corp. v. Lewis asks the court to decide whether an employer can force employees, as a condition of employment, to submit any federal legal claim to forced arbitration, essentially giving up your right to sue or file a class action lawsuit. As union membership has dropped, class action lawsuits have become a key tool for non-union employees to institute change in their workplaces. In the past, issues like wage and hour violations and discrimination cases have held employers accountable for their bad behavior. Now companies are trying to take away that tool. Ten unions filed an amicus brief with the court in support of an employee’s right to sue. “This is probably the most important employment, civil rights, or labor case I can remember,” says Cliff Palefsky, who is co-counsel on an amicus brief for the unions.

Both cases are expected to be heard in January or February of 2018. A final verdict on the cases will need to be made by the end of the term in June.

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