Monday, June 20, 2011

The US Supreme Court finds class actions are no substitute for a labor union

I am less upset than many progressives about the US Supreme Court decision today in Dukes v. Wal-Mart. Americans are just going to have to realize that labor unions are the best way for workers to go, as opposed to waiting until the boss screws you over and then having to find a lawyer to file a lawsuit for you.

Wal-Mart workers need to organize and American consumers need to support those workers' right to organize. Unions matter. Unions are still relevant.

Personal story: My wife learned first hand this past year how important labor unions are. She was getting grief from an administrator at her school where she worked as a teachers' aide. Because she was in a union, she did not have to find a lawyer. She just called her union and the union representative moseyed on over and had a meeting with my wife, my wife's supervisor and the administrator. The union rep made clear that the administrator's evaluation of my wife was an attack on her personally, not her performance and that the union was ready to take the issue upwards. The administrator backed off. At the end of this year, my wife received a transfer to a school that appreciates her and knows her effectiveness with challenged students.

If she was in a non-union workplace, that administrator would have succeeded in having her terminated under the usual "at will" relationship (I can fire you for any reason and you can quit for any reason). The union rep was far more effective than most lawyers could ever be, it cost my wife no attorneys' fees and costs and there was no significant delay. Plus, she did not have to worry about the whim of a judge or jury --unlike litigants to a wrongful termination lawsuit.

Obama blew it big time by not supporting labor law reform. In light of this US Supreme Court decision, now might be a good time for our president to talk about unions. But we know better. To paraphrase Kayne West, Barack Obama doesn't care about labor unions.

ADDENDUM: June 21, 2011:

Looks like Obama is scared enough of his base for his 2012 prospects to have the National Labor Relations Board actually propose some helpful rules for union elections. Let's see how far Obama pushes for this change of rules. Chances are he won't. This could end up being a Clintonian stunt akin to Clinton's infamous "side agreements" on labor and the environment during the NAFTA debate. The time to make the stand was two years ago. Still, let's welcome this development which we hope to follow closely and with some...gulp...hope.

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