The U.S. Supreme Court rules women Wal-Mart employees "too big" to file a class action suit, and makes Wal-Mart too big to sue
Radical Women is appalled, but not surprised, by the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that stopped a massive sex discrimination lawsuit against Wal-Mart, the world's largest retailer, on behalf of its women employees. Radical Women sees this decision as yet another round in the war against women raging in the United States, especially against women of color.
The Court didn't rule on the merits of the case, but on whether the group of women was "too big" and diverse to file a class action suit. It rubber-stamped Wal-Mart's arguments that local store managers have so much independence that the company as whole can not be held responsible, no matter how consistent discrimination is companywide. The court endorsed Wal-Mart's contradictory arguments that: 1) They were not responsible because they have no overall standards for managers regarding pay or promotions, and 2) That they had no "intention" of bias, because they have a policy on paper against discrimination. The facts be damned!
The decision was a close 5-4, with the right-wing majority stating that the women worked in too many different stores to be considered one group! How cynically ironic. It seems like just yesterday that billions of taxpayer dollars were spent to bail out banks that were "too big to fail." Now women workers are told they can't ban together for economic justice because there are too many -- not too big to fail, but too big to treat fairly.
Wal-Mart fought the women every step of the way for a decade. This ruling overturned an earlier 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision, along with forty years of legal precedents. Before, patterns of treatment of women and people of color determined whether discrimination existed. Now aggrieved parties will have to demonstrate not facts, but the intensions of the discriminators. Before, cases would include all the people who have been affected by unequal treatment. Now individuals, or small groups, are supposed to go it alone against billion-dollar corporations that can tie cases up in court for decades.
Vast sex bigotry is evident in the company. But the Court didn't care about facts. It ruled that it's okay to discriminate, as long as the guilty party is a giant corporation doing it on a massive scale.
While individual plaintiffs promise to go forward with their claims, this decision is a blow to everyone seeking redress against the powerful for institutionalized sexism, racism, or any kind of justice.
Radical Women applauds the brave women who continue to try to hold Wal-Mart accountable. They need and deserve our support, as do all who tackle vast and varied assaults by corporations, legislators and rightwing pundits. As Mother Jones so rightly said, "Don't mourn -- organize!"
It's time for a militant, in-the-streets feminist movement, which will naturally be led by women of color, to stop this onslaught of right-wing aggression against all working people. Feminists, of all genders, need to take on capitalism, with its dog-eat-dog creed that pits natural allies against each other. Standing shoulder to shoulder, we can beat back the daily assaults facing us, from home foreclosures to slashed Medicare benefits.
Radical Women branches across the U.S. and in Melbourne, Australia, are involved in day-to-day struggles for equality for women, people of color, queers and all workers, from defending abortion clinics to defending public education. It's going to take all of us, so if you are interested in getting involved with Radical Women, or just want more information, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.