There is an old adage that a Conservative is simply a "Liberal who was robbed." Last week, this aphorism received an update – as a nationally-publicized court case demonstrated that conservatism could be the inevitable result of a liberal, simply try to run. [Monday] The US Supreme Court ruled in favor of Madison, Wisconsin, – resident in the area Epic Systems in a lawsuit filed by employees against the software giant. At Epic and several other companies, workers argued that they should not be forced to sign contracts that would allow individual mediation to solve problems in the workplace. They believe that federal law protects their right to organize and collective bargaining. The court ruled in favor of Epic and effectively ended the hopes of workers among arbitration contacts to take collective action against their employers.
Epic is led by quixotic billionaire Judy Faulkner, an outrageous liberal and high-dollar giver for Democrats. Faulkner was a vocal critic of the state's largest corporate group, Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, and complained about the group's tendency to support conservative-minded candidates. At one point, Epic even boycotted companies that did business with WMC.
Ironically, Faulkner donated $ 5,000 to dethrone Republican Governor Scott Walker in a recall campaign in 2012, a vote that was held only because of Walker's weakening unions. But Faulkner is a businesswoman and has a multi-billion dollar fortune to protect. It needs to do this when it comes to regulating union activity in its own company to protect jobs and boost economic activity in Wisconsin.
"It is important for employers to protect the right of workers to file complaints and, at the same time, ensure a fair forum to address these complaints," Faulkner said in a statement Monday. "We believe that individual arbitration agreements on wages and working hours find an appropriate balance and are pleased with the court's decision to support them."
And she is completely right. In the decision released this week, the Supreme Court has simply upheld treaties that were readily signed by both employers and workers seeking conciliation in labor disputes. The settlement of arbitration disputes has been subject to the Federal Arbitration Act for almost a century. The plaintiffs had hoped the court would apply a very different federal law, the National Labor Relations Act, to dissolve the treaties and allow them to sue businesses in groups.
However, the Arbitration Act and the NLRA were passed in 1925 and 1935 respectively, have always coexisted separately and without conflict. The idea that the NLRA, which generally protects workers' right to organize, would break existing individual contracts is a completely new – and dangerous – concept.
The question of whether arbitration agreements are desirable is a political issue, not a matter for the courts to decide. "The merit of collective actions and private arbitration as a means to enforce the law are issues that are not constitutionally decided by the courts," wrote Judge Neil Gorsuch, "but to policymakers in the political branches where these issues are fiercely contested stay." Gorsuch added, "The Supreme Court" is not free to replace its preferred economic policies with those elected by the people's representatives. Of course, the decision was treated in the media as a victory of "business interests" over "workers." This ignores the fact that unions, in fact, have a very strong "interest" in themselves – an interest that makes millions of contracts wanted to break to achieve their own economic goals.
Christian Schneider is a Journal Sentinel columnist and blogger and a member of the USA TODAY Board of Contributors. Follow him on Twitter : @ Schneider_CM
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