The SCOTUS #EpicFail and How California Can Fight Back

Collective action is a worker’s best friend. When you stand together with your co-workers to tackle injustice on the job, you’ve got a fighting chance. Unfortunately, the Trump Administration and the conservative justices on the Supreme Court seem hell bent on taking that right away from as many workers as they can.

On Monday, the Court issued a controversial decision that puts justice on the job even further out of reach for millions of workers. In Epic Systems v. Lewis, Trump appointee Neil Gorsuch struck a major blow to the ability of workers to engage in collective action to counter exploitation and abuse by employers. The decision effectively denies workers who have been forced to sign arbitration agreements the right to engage in class-action suits against employers. The decision prompted a 30-page dissent from justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who railed against its inexplicable rationale and impact on workers who seek justice. There’s no doubt the effect of the decision will be chilling, emboldening corporations to engage in a host of abuses like sexual harassment, racial discrimination and wage theft, to name a few, with little or no consequences.

The decision immediately puts millions of workers in California at risk. That’s because, according to the Economic Policy Institute, forced arbitration is rampant in California. Corporations use these so-called “agreements” to skirt labor law, forcing workers to sign away all their rights just to get a job. Then, when they experience mistreatment, they are locked into a rigged system the employer controls. As you can imagine, justice is almost impossible under such a system.

California Labor Federation Executive Secretary-Treasurer Art Pulaski:

By ruling that workers cannot engage in collective action to hold their employers accountable when an arbitration agreement is signed, the conservative majority of the Court essentially locked workers into a rigged system that the employer controls when workers’ wages are stolen, they’re sexually harassed or discriminated against or otherwise exploited.

While this decision is a major blow to working people, made all the worse by the prospect of an upcoming decision in Janus v AFSCME that could make it even more difficult for workers to have a strong union on the job, there are ways California can fight back.

Corporations and the politicians they bankroll have been trying to stamp out collective action by working people for more than a century. Workers always find a way to stand together to fight back. Now is no different. In California, we’re focused on giving more workers the opportunity to join a union. But we’re also focused on state legislation to mitigate the effects of Trump’s attacks on workers and this terrible court decision.

AB 3080 (Gonzalez Fletcher) would ensure that no worker is forced to sign away her rights just to get a job. If workers aren’t forced into a rigged arbitration system, they still have numerous paths to justice when exploitation occurs. With Monday’s SCOTUS decision, AB 3080 is a last line of defense against the assault on workers’ rights. If California is serious about resisting Trump’s attacks, it’s imperative that this bill becomes law. In recent weeks the legislation has gained tremendous momentum, receiving support from former Fox News host Gretchen Carlson, who took down the Fox News culture of misogyny, and Uber whistleblower Susan Fowler, among many others. This bill is a flashpoint in the ongoing battle of workers’ rights. That’s precisely why the California Labor movement has made it passage a top priority this year.


As disheartening as this decision is for workers, California is leading the way to shield working people from the devastating effects of forced arbitration. AB 3080 ensures that no one is forced to sign an arbitration agreement, waiving her rights, just to get a job.

We will work tirelessly to pass this legislation to inoculate workers from a corporate-rigged system that seeks to undo all the progress the labor movement and our allies have made over decades to protect the rights of working people.