BREAKING NEWS : One man exonerated, a second charged with murder Full Story

Ruth Bader Ginsburg takes off the gloves

For Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the gloves are off and the collar is on.As she did on Monday in...

Posted: May 22, 2018 3:31 PM
Updated: May 22, 2018 3:31 PM

For Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the gloves are off and the collar is on.

As she did on Monday in an important employee wage dispute, Ginsburg dons her classic dissenting collar -- black with silver crystal accents -- over her robe when she is about to take the unusual step of protesting a majority decision from the bench.

"Nothing compels the destructive result the court reaches today," she said, adding in her written opinion that the majority was "egregiously wrong," retrenching on 80 years of federal labor law that sought "to place employers and employees on more equal footing."

Her forceful tone Monday, combined with earlier cases this session and the nature of controversies yet to be resolved, suggest Ginsburg and the three other liberals may increasingly be in the minority as the court nears the end of its annual session in late June -- and more likely to speak out.

At age 85, Ginsburg is the eldest of the nine sitting justices. A 1993 appointee of Democratic President Bill Clinton and the second woman named to the bench, Ginsburg has achieved an icon status, particularly among young lawyers. Her dissents have enhanced her prominence. The "Notorious RBG" meme, a play on the rapper Notorious B.I.G.," began as fans responded to her dissenting opinion in a case in which the conservative majority curtailed the reach of the federal Voting Rights Act.

After operating with only eight justices for parts of 2016 and 2017, following Antonin Scalia's death, the Supreme Court is in its first full session with Justice Neil Gorsuch, President Donald Trump's appointee. The bench appears to have moved beyond the interim pattern of incremental steps and compromise and returned to sharp 5-4 ideological divisions, led by Chief Justice John Roberts on the right and Ginsburg on the left.

That divide, as well as Ginsburg's continued legacy, will be tested in upcoming weeks with pending cases.

Among them is a major labor dispute that could determine the financial fate of public sector unions. The court is considering whether to reverse a four-decade precedent that permits unions to collect certain "fair share" fees from non-members to cover the cost of representing them in collective bargaining.

Also pending is a case pitting gay rights against religious interests, brought by a Christian baker in Colorado who refused to make a wedding cake for two gay men, and separate voting-district disputes from Wisconsin and Maryland testing the constitutionality of partisan gerrymanders.

In Monday's case, decided by a bitter 5-4 vote, the conservative majority ruled that employers may forbid employees from banding together to fight wage and other workplace issues covered by arbitration agreements. The court said a federal arbitration statute overrides federal labor law intended to protect workers' bargaining power.

Speaking for the four liberal dissenters, Ginsburg said the decision threatens to return the country to a time in the late 19th century and early 20th when workers were forced to take jobs strictly on the boss's terms and "yellow dog" contracts, forbidding employees from joining labor unions, were common.

The employees who had brought Monday's case claimed they had been underpaid in violation of the Fair Labor Standards and wanted to join in a class-action lawsuit in federal court. The Supreme Court majority agreed with their employers that the arbitration contracts they had signed prohibited any collective proceedings.

Ginsburg declared the agreements "arm-twisted, take-it-or-leave-it contracts." She noted that the cost of a lawsuit dissuades most workers from seeking to redress a grievance on their own and emphasized the "strength in numbers."

She said federal laws dating to the 1930s protect workers' rights to band together to confront employers about working conditions. "Federal labor law does not countenance such isolation of employees," she insisted.

So dire was her warning about a return to pre-New Deal conditions that Justice Gorsuch, who wrote for the majority, spent nearly half of his bench announcement on Monday morning responding to the dissent. Of Ginsburg's claim that the majority decision resurrected the long-dead "yellow dog contract," Gorsuch said, "This is a false alarm."

He devoted five pages of his 25-page opinion addressing Ginsburg's dissenting statement.

Gorsuch said the majority properly interpreted the text of arbitration law. He cited past cases favoring arbitration in commercial disputes.

Liberals had insisted the labor context was different. "As I see it," Ginsburg added, "in relatively recent years, the court's Arbitration Act decisions have taken many wrong turns. Yet, even accepting the court's decisions are they are, nothing compels the destructive result the court reaches today." She predicted the decision would lead to the underenforcement of federal and state labor laws.

Gorsuch acknowledged in his written opinion that because individual workers might not sue on their own, class actions can help enforce federal and state wage laws. But he added, quoting Ginsburg in a 2010 case, "it's also well known that they can unfairly 'place pressure on the defendant to settle even unmeritorious claims.'"

Joining Gorsuch in Monday's Epic Systems Corp. v. Lewis were Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Anthony Kennedy, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito. Dissenting with Ginsburg were Justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.

The nine divided along similar lines last month when the court disallowed overtime pay for certain automobile workers. Ginsburg wrote for dissenters in that case, Encino Motorcars v. Navarro, that the conservative majority was undermining worker protections from the 1930 New Deal era "without even acknowledging that it unsettles more than a half century of our precedent."

The same split could emerge in what is likely the most important labor case of the term, testing the constitutionality of state laws that require public-sector employees who decline to join a union nonetheless to pay fees to cover the cost of collective bargaining.

In past cases, conservative justices have signaled that they might be ready to rule for the challengers who say being forced to pay any fees infringes on their free speech rights.

Advocates for such "fair share" payments contend a high court decision letting employees benefit from representation without paying would seriously cripple labor unions in America.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 119066

Reported Deaths: 3612
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion21563768
Lake10745324
Elkhart6734112
St. Joseph6679115
Allen6364205
Hamilton4965109
Vanderburgh384231
Hendricks2779124
Monroe267137
Tippecanoe259013
Johnson2362125
Clark226757
Porter222447
Delaware201162
Cass19589
Vigo187928
Madison171475
LaPorte151941
Warrick140743
Floyd140464
Howard133964
Kosciusko127117
Bartholomew119357
Marshall102124
Dubois100919
Boone99746
Grant96636
Hancock94843
Noble92932
Henry82226
Jackson77610
Wayne77314
Morgan73940
Shelby68329
Daviess68129
Dearborn67928
LaGrange64711
Clinton63414
Harrison59824
Putnam59011
Gibson5455
Knox5379
Lawrence51829
Montgomery51321
DeKalb49111
White48814
Decatur46139
Miami4394
Greene42936
Fayette42314
Jasper4032
Steuben3977
Scott39311
Posey3541
Sullivan33812
Jennings31712
Franklin31525
Clay3105
Ripley3108
Orange28724
Whitley2876
Carroll28013
Adams2773
Wabash2758
Starke2737
Washington2702
Wells2694
Spencer2683
Jefferson2523
Huntington2503
Fulton2462
Tipton22922
Randolph2238
Perry22213
Jay1920
Newton17411
Owen1711
Martin1690
Pike1691
Rush1584
Vermillion1320
Fountain1302
Blackford1223
Pulaski1141
Crawford1100
Parke1072
Brown1033
Benton860
Ohio797
Union790
Switzerland690
Warren411
Unassigned0227

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 152907

Reported Deaths: 4783
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Franklin27283615
Cuyahoga17603657
Hamilton13340321
Montgomery7993166
Lucas7377364
Butler6151112
Summit5393252
Warren313649
Mahoning3114282
Marion311447
Stark2946175
Pickaway268445
Lorain234286
Delaware232821
Fairfield214654
Licking196063
Columbiana195180
Wood194273
Trumbull1921132
Clark185341
Clermont176123
Lake166051
Greene153634
Medina149339
Miami147652
Allen147372
Portage117766
Mercer113919
Erie96047
Tuscarawas94320
Wayne94268
Richland94119
Ross90426
Madison85512
Darke81144
Athens7402
Geauga73349
Hancock73110
Belmont72427
Lawrence68622
Shelby66910
Ashtabula66248
Auglaize62511
Putnam62523
Sandusky58720
Huron5727
Union5512
Scioto5287
Seneca49514
Ottawa47230
Muskingum4553
Preble44716
Holmes3999
Jefferson3424
Henry33715
Defiance33212
Champaign3143
Logan3143
Clinton30512
Perry3039
Fulton2991
Brown2923
Knox28915
Jackson2667
Washington26323
Morrow2622
Hardin25713
Ashland2484
Crawford2486
Coshocton23511
Fayette2346
Highland2313
Williams2163
Wyandot21512
Pike2040
Gallia19713
Meigs17711
Guernsey1748
Hocking1679
Carroll1527
Adams1374
Van Wert1283
Paulding1130
Monroe11018
Harrison643
Morgan500
Vinton483
Noble350
Unassigned00
Fort Wayne
Broken Clouds
46° wxIcon
Hi: 61° Lo: 36°
Feels Like: 44°
Angola
45° wxIcon
Hi: 59° Lo: 34°
Feels Like: 42°
Huntington
Clear
45° wxIcon
Hi: 61° Lo: 37°
Feels Like: 42°
Decatur
Clear
46° wxIcon
Hi: 62° Lo: 37°
Feels Like: 43°
Van Wert
Clear
46° wxIcon
Hi: 63° Lo: 36°
Feels Like: 43°
More Showers Thursday
WFFT Radar
WFFT Temperatures
WFFT National

Community Events