Justice Antonin "stupid people get what they deserve" Scalia
Yesterday, in a decision
that’s received less media play than a weekend softball game, the Supreme Court ruled…
that a claim that an entire arbitration agreement is invalid won’t be heard by a neutral judge unless the plaintiff specifically challenges the unfairness of the particular sentences that delegate such claims to the arbitrator. (Source)
The case was filed by Antonio Jackson, a former employee of Rent-A-Center, who was repeatedly denied promotion by the company and then, after complaints to corporate and eventually receiving a promotion, was fired.
The issue is less about the firing than the process established by the employer to arbitrate employment disputes. The post quotes an amicus brief by the SEIU:
it is all too common for non-unionized employers to take advantage of their grossly superior bargaining power by including one-sided terms in arbitration agreements that impose daunting and sometimes insurmountable barriers to the effective enforcement of the anti-discrimination, minimum wage, and workplace safety protections guaranteed by federal and state law.
In short, employers are using employment agreements to bypass the courts in favor of private arbitration, and that private arbitration process favors the employer. Further, the court ruled that because you have a choice to either sign or not sign these agreements, you have not been coerced, and are therefore bound by the agreement and all the unfair provisions it may provide.
The problem with this opinion is that in the decision to either sign or not sign these agreements, the potential employee is also deciding whether or not to be employed.
It was in oral arguments in this very case that the ever compassionate Justice Scalia basically called the plaintiff “stupid” and had something to say to the stupid people out there who might sign agreements to Corporations because they need a job.
— you can be a stupid person who voluntarily signs an unconscionable contract. Now, the courts may protect you because you’re stupid, but you haven’t been coerced. (Source p.47)
This is yet another in a series of decisions from the Court that favors corporate interests over the interest of protecting the little guy from said corporate interests. In short, this court is not merely chipping away at protections for individuals from any number of corporate interests, be they employment law, or campaign contributions, but a full scale clear cutting of all the truffula trees, while shackling the Lorax to a bed of nails and demanding he accede to the conditions of a contract that is not in his best interest.
The problem with this decision and the Citizen’s United decision is that both seem to give corporations, whose pockets are far deeper than even the most wealthy Americans, and whose ability to raise capitol is only restrained by their shareholder’s willingness to issue more debt, a greater ability to exert influence on the lives of average Americans as a matter of practice, if not written law. Further, by allowing corporations to use these agreements to circumvent federal and state labor standards, the SCOTUS is effectively sanctioning a shadow labor law outside the framework of government where protections are a privilege, not a right.
There’s a lot of anger out there, the majority of which is directed at “the government”, and a great deal of it is justified. Government in general, particularly in the past eight years, has been lilly-livered to the point of near irrelevance in protecting the rights of individuals and ensuring we can enjoy the spoils of liberty.
The Preamble of the Constitution says We the People, not We the Corporations or any other imaginary entity that law might create. In making these decisions the Supreme Court is creating an America that is essentially separate and unequal, allowing those who can exert their power to exert it, the rest be damned.
This is not a more perfect Union. Why aren’t our elected officials doing more to protect our interests? Because while we have a power that a corporation doesn’t have, the right to vote (for now), corporations have the power of money and marketing that they use as a blunt instrument against our best interests time and time again to sway our opinion and ultimately convince us to use our vote against ourselves. They, like Justice Scalia think we’re stupid. Unfortunately, we keep proving them right.
At the end of the day, government should be protecting the little guy, not throwing him to the wolves and watching the show. However, this Supreme Court seems all too willing to do that very thing.
This is what it’s come to. 30 years of predominantly corporate interested appointments in the courts have led us to a place where, not suprisingly, corporations have the power to whittle away our rights and the protections of government.
They’re screwing the little guy and to this point we’ve been passive participants in our own screwing. If we want it to stop, we have to look beyond the rhetoric, marketing, and shiny objects that have been used to distract us. We have to get active and educate ourselves to save ourselves from ourselves.
Most importantly, we have to recognize that our action or inaction has long-ranging consequences. This isn’t a random event. It’s been in process for some time, and it’s going to take as much or more time, energy, drive and focus to reverse course.
Otherwise, you’ll be the next one to get screwed. Chances are, you already have and don’t even know it.