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Wal-Mart Supreme Court Decision: A Step Back for Women Workers

Global Women's Project | Thu, Jun 30, 2011

By Jennifer Maez

In the 5 to 4 decision on June 20th, Wal-Mart was granted a “unanimous dismissal” of a class-action suit by the United States Supreme Court.  This dismissal institutes a major set-back for low-wage workers, but more specifically for low-wage, women workers.

In the 5 to 4 decision on June 20th, Wal-Mart was granted a “unanimous dismissal” of a class-action suit by the United States Supreme Court.  This dismissal institutes a major set-back for low-wage workers, but more specifically for low-wage, women workers.  The plaintiffs, representing 1.5 million female, Wal-Mart employees, were seeking retribution for Wal-Mart’s discriminating policies that enforce and implement a gendered wage gap.  Not only was this case dismissed, but the Supreme Court’s decision makes class-action suits significantly harder to claim.  The new certification process for class-action suits means that large corporations like Wal-Mart will rarely face fiscal penalties for its policies of discrimination, as the process forces workers to make an individual claim for monetary compensation (which is unlikely due to the legal costs attached for individual cases).

The Institute for Women’s Policy Research’s analysis of the Supreme Court ruling finds that there is a “long way to go for pay equity.”  According to IWPR, women’s median annual earnings are 77% to those of men.  This gap is even worse for women of color, as Latina women only earn 55.2% of the median weekly earnings of white men.  Although addressing the wage gap and other forms of institutionalized discrimination against women has had its progress, this decision shows the need for further action in order for equality and justice to flourish, especially for those most vulnerable.

 Jennifer Maez is the current Global Women’s Project intern this summer.  A recent graduate of Villanova University in Pennsylvania, Jennifer obtained Bachelor of Arts degrees in Sociology and Gender & Women’s Studies with an emphasis in Peace & Justice. Her main focus at the Center of Concern will be articulating about the current care crisis within a globalized context.


Photo by TheChanel, CC-BY-20