Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Bullets Bounce Off Big Boxes

Walmart and Target are both happier companies now following the resolution of events over the last few days. Over the weekend workers (or in Target parlance, team members) at the store in Valley Stream, NY rejected an labor union certification vote, while yesterday the Supreme Court, in what may turn out to be a landmark ruling, rejected a potentially massive class-action lawsuit aimed at Walmart, ostensibly on behalf of 1.5 million Walmart workers (or associates, in Walmart parlance):

“Because respondents provide no convincing proof of a companywide discriminatory pay and promotion policy, we have concluded that they have not established the existence of any common question” necessary for a class-action suit, Justice Antonin Scalia said in the 5 to 4 opinion.

There is a common thread here, which is that the real losers weren't those who were purported to be the victims of corporate perfidy. The union that sought to organize the Target workers, and the lawyers who tried to cobble together a class larger than the population of Philadelphia, are the losers. Both were, in their own ways, attempting to use the workers of the two companies to gain access to their respective corporate coffers. Had the union been able to organize the Valley Stream location, they would have quickly moved to demand similar representation at other Target locations. This would have been a great deal for the union, which would have had a remarkable income stream from union dues, but likely would not have benefitted the workers that much.

Meanwhile, as is the case in most class actions, the biggest beneficiaries of the class action suit against Walmart would have been the laywers. Chances are very good that you've been declared part of a plaintiff's class action, but that you've received something of only nominal value as a result of the settlement. That's the scam involved here and it's long past time the Supreme Court weighed in on such matters.

The lawyers suing Walmart were considering their options:

Attorneys for the plaintiffs — six company workers who sought to represent the rest of Wal-Mart’s female workforce — acknowledged that the decision effectively ends their suit, although they said individual discrimination suits or smaller class-action litigation might be an option.

That's the proper approach to such matters, but rarely taken. Why? Allow the Washington Post to explain:

Class actions are favored by those alleging discrimination because they can force employers to change their practices. And often individual discrimination suits carry too small a payoff for lawyers to take.
Emphasis mine.


Night Writer said...

These were encouraging decisions to be sure. While most of the attention yesterday was on decisions that essentially established who may not sue, there was a mostly overlooked decision which established who CAN sue.

In Bond v. The United States, the Court unanimously agreed that individuals, not just states, have standing to sue the government. This assertion of what should have been common sense all along will likely have a far-reaching and government-limiting ramifications, including - but not limited to - the inevitable hearing on the individual requirements in Obamacare.


Gino said...

all this walmart news shows me is that amanda is right: it is a man's world. and thats fine by me.