Class action bitch from a Supreme Court justice, but…

Thousands of workers at an Iowa pork processing plant are seeking to band together in a single lawsuit seeking overtime pay.

Source: Supreme Court Hears Tyson Foods Class-Action Labor Case – The New York Times

Adam Liptak begins this article:

WASHINGTON — Facing a Supreme Court generally hostile to class actions, thousands of workers at an Iowa pork processing plant may nevertheless have found a narrow path toward victory at an argument on Tuesday, one that would allow them to band together in a single lawsuit seeking overtime pay.

Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, whose vote will probably prove crucial, suggested that the defendant, Tyson Foods, had committed litigation missteps that could doom its case. “I just don’t understand your arguments,” Justice Kennedy told Carter G. Phillips, a lawyer for the company.

I see what Liptak is getting at when he says that maybe, just maybe the Tyson Food employees have found that narrow path.

Very narrow. The next paragraph about Kennedy suggests that the justice is so bitchy that the Tyson lawyers may have forced him into supporting the employees. And so he takes a nasty swipe in the direction of every other hopeful class action group, warning them they shouldn’t think they’re going to be able to use the Tyson case to support their cause:

Justice Kennedy added that plaintiffs seeking to recover overtime pay under the Fair Labor Standards Act may use statistics to prove their case that could not be used in other kinds of class-action suits.

This reminds me to link to the recent strong New York Times’ editorial against arbitration, because if the Supreme Five limit class action lawsuits against powerful corporations, and support arbitration as the only resource available to individuals to go after corporate wrongdoing–arbitration which itself is entirely advantageous to powerful entities–then the Dastard Five have smashed into tiny pieces our right to complain in the courts.

And have turned an entire segment of our justice system over to corporate powers. Way to go, Supremes!

UPDATE 11/13/2015. The National Law Journal’s Tony Mauro reports on this case. Despite Kennedy’s kvetch, Mauro sees the Court majority as finding against Tyson Foods and for the workers’ class action lawsuit:

Justices Skewer Tyson Foods in Class Action Case

Tony Mauro, The National Law Journal


A majority of U.S. Supreme Court justices appeared unsympathetic toward Tyson Foods Inc. on Tuesday in the company’s quest to torpedo a class action brought by employees seeking payment for time spent donning and doffing protective gear. If the court’s liberal members and Justice Anthony Kennedy end up voting against Tyson, it would be a rare win for the class action bar from a court that has been making such lawsuits incrementally harder to maintain in recent years.


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