Reprinted from The Los Angeles Times by David Savage on October 2, 2017.
The Supreme Court justices returned to the bench Monday ready to argue — and disagree sharply along usual ideological lines — on a basic question of workers’ rights in the 21st Century.
Can employees join together to argue their company is violating the law by denying them overtime pay or minimum wages or by discriminating against women or minorities?
To the court’s four liberal justices, this looked like a case of back to the future. Early in the 20th Century, companies often required workers to waive their rights to join a union or take collective action. Those agreements were referred to as “yellow dog contracts,” Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg noted. In 1935, under President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Congress adopted the National Labor Relations Act, which guaranteed workers a right to join a union and to take “other concerted activities” to protect their interests. The yellow dog contract became a thing of the past.
In the past decade, however, a growing number of companies have started to require employees to waive their rights to sue in court or join class-action cases and agree instead to arbitrate disputes as individuals. Under these rules, employees are barred from joining co-workers to seek overtime pay or other benefits promised by law. …