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A Question of Values

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By Morris Berman

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Ear to the Ground
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Wal-Mart 1, Women 0

Posted on Jun 20, 2011
Flickr / Lone Primate

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled unanimously against a group that sued Wal-Mart over alleged sex discrimination in matters of pay and promotion in the name of up to 1.5 million women who worked there and at Sam’s Club since 1998. Monday’s decision reversed a California U.S. Court of Appeals decision.

The new ruling—which saved the giant retailer from potentially billions of dollars in damages—means that the lawsuit cannot proceed under class-action status and that each of the women involved must pursue their own claims. In being unable to sue as a unified bloc, complainants are likely to have a much more difficult time making their cases. The decision is expected to set a precedent that could have a dampening effect on similar class-action lawsuits. —ARK

The New York Times:

The lawsuit sought back pay that could have amounted to billions of dollars. But the Supreme Court, in a decision that was unanimous on this point, said the plaintiffs’ lawyers had improperly sued under a part of the class action rules that was not primarily concerned with monetary claims.

The court did not decide whether Wal-Mart had in fact discriminated against the women, only that they could not proceed as a class. The court’s decision on that issue will almost certainly affect all sorts of other class-action suits, including ones asserting antitrust, securities and product liability violations.

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mrfreeze's avatar

By mrfreeze, June 20, 2011 at 9:16 pm Link to this comment

My sister has always lived in butt-f**k small towns in the West (NV, WY, CO) and I can clearly remember the first time she said she LOVED Walmart back in the 80’s because a) their prices were lower and selection of goods larger than the small businesses in town and b) you could always take things back if they were a problem (something small businesses wouldn’t do…..(i guess???). In almost every town she has lived, WM has eliminated many of the small businesses there. I’m not making this up. And, I’ve travelled extensively (by bicycle) across the U.S. and many small towns have become part of that great WM collective. It’s almost too disturbing to believe. And here’s the fundamental problem with it all: My sister and everyone else who shops at WM casts an economic vote against the owners and workers who would dare be WM’s competition. They sell their neighbors down the river by “demanding lower prices… they can live better….” It truly is the race to the bottom.

This is why it came as no shock to me that anyone or any group that had the temerity (and was “uppity” enough) could ever win any sort of case against a corporation as large as WM. And you know, WM has that type of power because of people like my sister who, if she ever had to work for those pricks would be treated like a 4th class citizen both in wages, benefits and because of her gender. What a strange world it’s become.

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John R.'s avatar

By John R., June 20, 2011 at 6:05 pm Link to this comment

To: thirdman

I agree with you thethirdman.

It is a very dangerous game. And I will not give up the efforts to change our
current political system.

I do believe very very hard times are ahead though.

Peace to you and your friends thethirdman.

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By thethirdman, June 20, 2011 at 2:33 pm Link to this comment

John R.

I don’t agree with your strategy, but I do respect you for enacting change in the way you deem most productive.  Like you implied, we most assuredly are on the same team.

I do have my doubts about all the masked indignados and their relation to groups like Anonymous.  Seems to me that a lot of people watched V for Vendetta and are ready to sword fight the boogie man.  The State is no joke and she has no qualms about striking back. 

But don’t forget, the State is just a symptom of our crappy, greedy, selfish culture.  Not the other way around.  Therefore, the battle is much greater, and much less winnable than all those peaceful marchers can imagine.

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John R.'s avatar

By John R., June 20, 2011 at 2:22 pm Link to this comment

To: thethirdman

The Guy Fawkes mask has now become (in this era) a symbol of opposition to the plutocracy that appears to be running several governments around the world. Frequently it is assumed that those that use the mask as an avatar also support the known Guy Fawkes from his actions in the past.

For myself, I identify with the symbol that the Gut Fawkes mask has become, as used by the current generation.

I also have had similar experiences as felicitys’ actions, of think globally, and act locally. Since money to travel long distances is out. Organize with those near you. Make a difference with those groups that have issues that you feel strongly about.

I practice my civics where I can, and when I can. Sometimes, only as another Guy Fawkes mask among many, in a crowd of protesters.

Sometimes many photos are taken of those within the crowd, and attempts at following, and intimidation, by the opposing party are issued to disrupt the protestors’ life that is donning the Guy Fawkes mask.

This is why many of us wear the mask.

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By thethirdman, June 20, 2011 at 1:21 pm Link to this comment

John R.

Guy Fawkes was trying to blow up Parliament with kegs of gun powder.  So his mug seems a little discordant with your nonviolent approach. 

As for answers, wish I had some.  I personally believe that history runs in cycles and there is not a single thing you can do about it.  I’m going to float through this universe as best as I can, but I won’t fool myself into believing that any of this actually matters.

You are right about your audience though.  This is a predominently nonviolent site.

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By thethirdman, June 20, 2011 at 1:12 pm Link to this comment


Congratulations, you got an arms convention moved to a differnt venue.

History doesn’t support my conclusions?

Dred Scott
Elk vs Wilkins
Allgeyar v Louisiana
Plessy v Ferguson
Slaughterhouse Cases
Barron v Baltimore
Giles v Harris
Pollock v Farmers Loan
Breedlove v Suttles
Korematsu v US
Buck v Bell
Bowers v Hardwick
Bush v Gore
Citizens United

Look ‘m up. There’s your history lesson for the day.

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By NABNYC, June 20, 2011 at 12:41 pm Link to this comment

The corporations hate class actionlawsuits and want to eliminate them completely.  The Supreme Court is simply following the directives of the corporations and their legal mouthpiece the Federalist Society. 

If one person sues Walmart for discrimination, Walmart’s lawyers will force the attorney for the employee to spend hundreds of hours on discovery and discovery responses, motions, depositions, run up the legal fees to such an extent that no worker could afford to pay an attorney, and no attorney would be able to stay in business if they agreed to take the case on a contingency basis, but then were forced to work on it full-time for years because of bad-faith tactics by the other side.

The value of class action lawsuits is that they allow the court to make a ruling on an issue of fact and law common to all the claims.  In this instance, that issue would be that WalMart routinely paid women less for the same or comparable work.  Once that finding has been made, each individual woman’s claim would be examined by the court to see if she fell within that general category and, if so, to determine her damages.  If a woman in the class had been paid more than men doing comparable work, for example, she would be thrown out of the class.  The class action allows a team of attorneys to work together to prove the central common issue of fact and law so that no one individual attorney is bankrupt by Walmart or any other corporation’s bad-faith misuse of the legal system.

The truth is that the legal system belongs to the corporations.  Justice will not be found in the legal system, nor by individual lawsuits.  The public must find a decent union to organize every retail worker, starting with WalMart, demand a living wage, healthcare and pension, then pick off their stories one by one with picketing, boycotts, and educational programs.  If they leave, fine, be prepared to bring in another retailer who is willing to work with the local community.  But nobody will find justice in our court system anymore.

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John R.'s avatar

By John R., June 20, 2011 at 12:03 pm Link to this comment

To: thethirdman

Since you know whom Guy Fawkes was…  no explanation of the mask is needed.

I believe most (not all) that post comments to this site, are suggesting non-
violent ways of changing the current plutocracy, since our current corporate
controlled government has mastered violence. 

Please suggest ‘your plan of action’

An enemy of my enemy, is my ally.

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By Bob S., June 20, 2011 at 11:53 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Given its current makeup, the SCOTUS made a decision completely consistent with that. Wal-Mart always knew it could count on the High Court to side with it, the only real question left is why stage this farce to begin with? The final score had already tallied in private chambers, long before the actual game ever began.

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By felicity, June 20, 2011 at 11:21 am Link to this comment

thethirdman - SCOTUS history (and my personal
experience) doesn’t support your conclusions.  Years
ago I participated in a non-violent demonstration
before a hotel that was hosting a world-wide
convention of arms’ dealers.  The following year when
the same hotel was asked to host the convention
again, it declined citing the “unfavorable publicity”
it had experienced the year before.

And, what better way to suppress the voice of the
people than to convince them that no matter what
action they take, they are powerless - is that your

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By thethirdman, June 20, 2011 at 10:56 am Link to this comment

Did anyone really expect anything different?

Throughout history, SCOTUS usually upholds the status quo.  They rarely make
progressive decisions.  Instead, they reverse their decisions long after the rest of
the country has forced them to.

But sleep-ins and camp outs?  John R needs to do some research.  This
nonviolence nonsense is a myth.  Nonviolence favors the State.  And what’s with
the Guy Fawkes masks?

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John R.'s avatar

By John R., June 20, 2011 at 10:27 am Link to this comment

Yes felicity-

The corporations have used money to completely undermine our justice system.
Only ‘boots on the ground’ “sleep ins’ ‘camp outs’ etc. in huge numbers, in
peaceful protests will have any impact.

I believe this is a test, brought on by other world events. The corporations are
watching just how far can we push them to work for nearly nothing.

How much blood can be squeezed from each human?

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By felicity, June 20, 2011 at 9:50 am Link to this comment

We the people have little or no representation in
Congress any more.  With this latest Court decision it
is clear that we can no longer look to the Court for
righting a wrong that has been done to us.

The only ‘power’ we have left to us is the power of our
numbers and the only way we can exercise that power is
to go to the streets - an American Spring.

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