This week, the US Supreme Court ruled that workers CANNOT file lawsuits against employers for stealing their wages, and instead, they have to go in front of a panel of corporate-friendly arbitrators. Ring of Fire’s Mike Papantonio and Farron Cousins discusses this.

To learn more about this topic, visit AL.Law

Transcript:

Mike Papantonio: This week the US Supreme Court ruled that workers cannot filed lawsuits against employers for stealing their wages and instead they have to go in front of a panel of corporate friendly arbitrators that are always hand picked by the corporation. This story’s been kicking out there for a long time, I mean you’ve got a labor policy that makes it virtually impossible for individuals to sue their employers, in other words an employer literally steals money from them. They do it all kinds of ways.

They make them work during break times. They don’t pay them for overtime. They’ve got all kinds of scams. We’ve seen very iteration you could imagine from this. So no question that the Supreme Court knows that goes on, because they’ve seen these cases. They’ve seen the facts straight up. They know the facts of Mcdonalds, they know the facts of … I mean I could go on forever, these industries that … Walmart, all of the companies that have these scams where they virtually steal money from employees.

No difference than going into their locker and taking money right out of their locker. But we have a Supreme Court that says, “well gee wiz, we should be able to allow them to go in force in a class action mode and say you’ve stolen from us. We want our money back.” What is your take on this case?

Farron Cousins: What’s interesting about this case is that it really does bring to light two important issues that people often gloss over. One is the wage theft issue, and the other is the forced arbitration, both of which are huge problems for consumers that honestly until the Supreme Court case came out, I don’t think I’ve heard anybody in the corporate media ever talk about this. We have talked about wage theft, you and I for years now, and we know how it works as you’ve said.

They don’t pay them overtime, they make them work off the clock. They reclassify them is one of the big things they do. They’ll say, “Well you’re actually, even though you work and you do the same job as somebody else, you’re a manager, even though you have no authority, so therefor you are not entitled to any overtime pay whatsoever.” Just weird little tricks like that.

Mike Papantonio: Well let’s talk about why the corporate networks, MSNBC for example, they got caught. I mean they got caught. They had people working for nothing. “Oh come work with Rachel Maddow and Joe Scarborough and we’re not gonna pay you, which really not gonna benefit your career, but come work with us.” And they had these kids working crazy hours for nothing, and so that would be an issue that they certainly wouldn’t do a story on it, and they certainly did no stories on that type of thing.

So there’s that part of it, and as you point out, this arbitration black hole that’s developing across the board. First of all, explain arbitration a little bit. I know you’ve written a couple stories on it. It is just nothing but a black hole for consumers.

Farron Cousins: Right. What it means is you know whether it’s with an employment contract or a cell phone or credit card, home loan, you agree to go instead of being able to sue, you’re giving away your constitutional rights, you have to go in front of this arbitrator who is the sole decider of this case. Whatever that person says, and this arbitrator in almost every instance when you sign the clause is picked by the company.

Mike Papantonio: Yeah, statistically, more than 70% of the time, the consumer’s gonna lose.

Farron Cousins: Well 90% now, the latest numbers are out and it’s 90.

Mike Papantonio: Yeah well when you just looked at across the board, consumer issues, it was 70%, now it’s moved to 90%. It’s gonna get worse. But what needs up happening is they find these trolls. They find these characters that come out of industry that maybe worked for them in the past or they go to universities and they get these professors that are making a $150,000 a year and they want to make $400,000 a year so they get on the arbitration train.

It’s nothing but a food train for these bottom feeders. They truly are bottom feeders. If you take a look at most of their careers, their career is over. They have no other options except to be an arbitrator, and so the industry ends up paying them a lot of money, and of course they’re gonna rule for the industry every time.

In this case the point is this: an individual cannot go toe to toe with a corporation by themselves in a case like wage theft. If they’ve only had $20,000 stolen from them, it’s gonna cost them $200,000 to go to war. So what was in place was class action where you could have 20 of them get together, 30 of them, 100 of them get together and all say, “We’re gonna do this together. We’re gonna bring a class action against you.”

That the economy of scale made sense then. It actually worked. And so the Supreme Court did the bidding of corporations again, the same folks that you’d imagined would make a decision like this. I mean there’s never any surprise, is it? You can take a look at who wrote the majority opinions on this. It’s Roberts, it’s Anthony’s … It’s Kennedy, it’s Thomas, it’s Alito.

Farron Cousins: Gorsuch.

Mike Papantonio: Gorsuch. There are no surprises here. They come from corporations. Kennedy, who cares if the guy retires or not? We have this notion that Kennedy’s this great swing vote for liberals. That is ridiculous. Kennedy has been nothing but a punk for industry since he’s been on the court.

Farron Cousins: But he’s nothing more than another one of those socially liberal, fiscally conservative types who’s gonna go with corporations all the time, but you know what, let’s add a little point here, because again, we’ve researched this to hell and back. There was one arbitrator from a story that we’ve covered in California. She was hearing over 60 different cases per day, so on average, she spent about six minutes with each employee trying to arbitrate.

94% of her rulings went back to the company. So you get six minutes. You have to hire a lawyer, you know and if we’re only talking about $1000 or $5000 stolen from you here, you’re losing money on this even if you get your money back from the company.

Mike Papantonio: Yeah. Here’s what the industry understands. Their risk is zero. If they steal $50 every day from 100 employees, their risk is zero, because the one employee that lost $50 is not gonna sue them, because if they do they’re gonna go after that employee, they’re gonna lose their job. They’re gonna be isolated as far as being able to move up in the company, but more importantly, that employee can’t afford to do that.

There’s no way an attorney can even spend the time taking that to court for $50 lost in that hour, even if it’s 500 or 5000, the numbers don’t work. So here you’ve got the industry realizes this is a ticket to steal. The US Supreme Court has now said to us, this punk majority that we have that are nothing but an extension of corporate America, they have now decided that yeah, we’re gonna give you that ticket. Go ahead and steal, because the chances of you really having to face any problem are almost nonexistent.

Mike Papantonio is an American attorney and television and radio talk show host. He is past president of The National Trial Lawyers, the most prestigious trial lawyer association in America; and is one of the few living attorneys inducted into the Trial Lawyer Hall of Fame. He hosts the international television show "America's Lawyer"; and co-hosts Ring of Fire Radio, a nationally syndicated weekly radio program, with Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and Sam Seder.