SCOTUS Delivers Rare Forced Arbitration Win for Working People

Following a string of pro-corporate rulings including Epic Systems, the Supreme Court finds truck drivers whose wages are stolen will get their day in court, and not be forced into closed door arbitration

Washington, D.C. Following is a statement by Ceilidh Gao, staff attorney with the National Employment Law Project, on the case New Prime Inc. v. Oliveira.

“Today, in a unanimous decision, the Supreme Court gave workers a rare forced arbitration win. The decision comes after last year’s Epic Systems, which paved the way for corporations to break workplace laws with impunity and dramatically tilted the legal system against working people. This unanimous decision recognizes the reality of exploitation in the trucking industry today.

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“At the center of this case is an industry so exploitative that experts call it ‘sweatshops on wheels’ and ‘sharecropping on wheels.’ Drivers like Dominic Oliveira work for trucking companies and deliver the goods we buy at retailers such as Home Depot and Target. Drivers like Mr. Oliveira often work long hours only to find that their paycheck at the end of the week—after a slew of company deductions—is well below minimum wage, or even negative, meaning they owe the company money. If drivers stop working, the company can seize their trucks, which are often leased from the company. It’s no surprise that a Pulitzer-nominated investigation calls the industry modern-day indentured servitude.

“We commend today’s decision, but over 60 million workers in America – 56 percent of private-sector nonunion employees – are still subject to forced arbitration clauses that rob working people of basic labor standards.

”Forced arbitration takes away people’s right to have their day in court. It’s a backdoor way of repealing laws on the books. Wage laws, anti-discrimination laws, anti-harassment laws, and more – these protections are of little use if workers can’t enforce them. We must demand from Congress a legislative solution that restores the fundamental right of workers to band together in a public court of law.

“NELP filed an amicus brief in this case, on behalf of NELP, the Teamsters International Union, the Economic Policy Institute, and the National Employment Lawyers Association. Our brief explains why this decision is important not only for workers, but also for the larger public and for law-abiding employers.

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