Supreme Court Gives Business a Big Win Over Workers
May 21, 2018
Today the Supreme Court tilted the competitive playing field away from honest businesses and towards abusive ones. The court decided that employers who use forced arbitration clauses can block worker class actions, depriving employees of their right to band together to access the justice system. Today’s decision means big employers can steal wages, unlawfully discriminate and harass, and violate workplace rights with impunity. And it means that corporations that steal wages will have a pricing advantage over those who do not.
As Justice Ginsburg noted in her dissent, this is “egregiously wrong.”
The 5-4 decision continues a longstanding trend by the Supreme Court to grant big corporations power at the expense of workers, consumers, small businesses, and individuals. Rather than serving as a tool to redress unjust inequalities, the law is increasingly deployed to concentrate private power. Today’s decision underscores the need for Congress to reject the Supreme Court’s project permitting businesses to use forced arbitration clauses unchecked, which jeopardizes enforcement of laws spanning consumer and employee protection, civil rights, and antitrust. According to the Economic Policy Institute, over 60 million workers are barred from accessing courts.
“Extreme consolidation means that employers already wield extreme power over workers. Today’s Supreme Court decision all but incentivizes companies to abuse that power by enabling them to effectively evade laws that protect workers. In fact, any business that abides by these laws will now be at a competitive disadvantage,” said Lina Khan, Director of Legal Policy for the Open Markets Institute.
For a deep dive tracing how the Supreme Court came to let corporations use forced arbitration clauses to skirt accountability, see Lina Khan’s article in the Washington Monthly, “Thrown Out of Court.” To understand how the proliferation of forced arbitration clauses enables a huge wealth transfer from poor to rich, check out Lina Khan & Deepak Gupta’s piece in the Yale Law & Policy Review, “Arbitration as Wealth Transfer.”