— “The Communist Manifesto” by Marx and Engels
The five business leaders of the Supreme Court exercise the will of the ruling class to the great detriment of the vast majority of Americans.
If anyone naively thinks those five are not reactionary politicians their decision in the recent Wal-Mart case should disabuse them.
The Supreme Court rejected, 5-4, a class-action suit that sought billions of dollars on behalf of 1.6 million Wal-Mart women employees.
Where once banks were considered too big to fail, the court has declared, in effect, that Wal-Mart is too big to be sued.
Plenty is wrong with America but one of its greatest flaws is the retrograde Supreme Court.
Both the U.S. District Court and the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco ruled that the Wal-Mart woman had a case for a back-pay suit. But those decisions were overturned by business-oriented lawmakers.
The Supreme Court ruling also shows that Wal-Mart badly needs a union. With a union women would get the pay and promotions they deserve.
Yet Wal-Mart, the nation’s largest retailer, aggressively keeps unions out. As a result you have male domination of the firm’s 3,400 stores.
As dissenting Justice Ginsburg wrote, gender bias suffuses “Wal-Mart’s corporate culture.”
She noted that women fill 70 percent of the hourly jobs but just 33 percent of management positions. She added that senior management patronizingly refers to women managers as “little Janie Q’s.”
Wal-Mart once welcomed trainees for executive positions with a banner reading: “Welcome assistant managers and wives.”
One woman worker complained that a male manager “yelled at her frequently and screamed at female employees but not at men,” the Ginsburg noted. “The manager in question told her to ‘doll up,’ to wear some makeup and to dress a little better.”
Another manager told a Wal-Mart woman that “men are here to make a career and women aren’t.”
At similar retail chains women hold 57 percent of management jobs. At Wal-Mart out of 41 regional vice presidents just five are women. Just 10 percent of Wal-Mart district managers are women.
Ginsburg concluded: “statistics show that women are paid less than men in every region and that the salary gap widens over time even for men and women hired for the same jobs at the same time.”
Facts and figures are stubborn but the Retrograde Five ignores them.
Justice Scalia, writing the majority opinion, denied the blatant bias, declaring that there is no “significant proof” that Wal-Mart operates “under a general policy of discrimination.”
Thus the court absolves Wal-Mart of all accountability. Thus the court denies Wal-Mart women a chance to obtain justice. Thus it reverses 40 years of progressive jurisprudence in class-action suits.
Wal-Mart, el cheapo to all its workers, has the largest number of employees who receive Medicaid, food stamps and state public assistance. Yet its autocratic male structure has been ratified by the Supreme Court’s legislators.
Nelson Lichtenstein, history professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara, has made a specialty of studying Wal-Mart. He points out in a recent New York Times opinion piece how Wal-Mart executives “pressure store-level management to squeeze more and more from millions of clerks, stockers and lower-tier managers.”
Wal-Mart “views low labor costs and a high degree of workplace flexibillitly as a signal competitive advantage,” Lichtenstein writes. “It is a militantly anti-union company that has been forced to pay millions of dollars to present and former employees for violations of state wage and hours laws.”
Lichtenstein notes that if the firm had a union it could bargain “over not only wages and pensions but also qualitative issues like promotion and transfer policies that have proved so vexing for nonunionized employees at Wal-Mart and other big retailers.”
Sadly, as an old saw has it, if wishes were horses beggars would ride. Which brings us back to the Supreme Court.
Since the earliest days of the Republic all the justices have been lawyers. Lawyers by training and professional inclination are conservative.
Exceptions have been court greats such as Chief Justice Earl Warren and Justices Brandeis and Holmes, Black and Douglas, Brennan and Marshall.
But lawyers mostly speak for the ruling class not the people. Its unspoken motto: “The public be damned.”
Jake Highton is a parttime journalism teacher at the University of Nevada, Reno.