Supreme Court term begins with case of workers’ rights

  • News crews setup outside of the Supreme Court early Monday morning, Oct 2. 2017, in Washington, on the first day of the court's new term. (AP Photo/J. David Ake J. David Ake

  • People stand in line to go into the Supreme Court in Washington, Monday, Oct. 2, 2017, for the first day of the new term. The Supreme Court term that, by law, begins on the first Monday in October includes several high-profile cases dealing with controversial social issues or with the potential to affect millions of Americans. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh) Susan Walsh

  • Cardinal Donald Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington, speaks with U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts as they leave St. Mathews Cathedral after the Red Mass in Washington on Sunday, Oct. 1, 2017. The Supreme Court's new term starts Monday, Oct. 2. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana) Jose Luis Magana

Tuesday, October 03, 2017
Supreme CourtCase on workers’ rights begins

The Supreme Court opened a high-profile term Monday with a case about employees’ rights that could affect an estimated 25 million workers.

Justice Neil Gorsuch, in his first full term on the bench, was silent during an otherwise lively argument in which the justices seemed closely divided.

The case is of considerable importance to employers and their workers because it involves how employees can complain about pay and conditions in the workplace.

The issue is whether businesses can force employees to individually use arbitration to resolve disputes. The case pits labor laws intended to allow workers to band together against an older law encouraging the use of arbitration, instead of the courts.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, seeming to speak for the court’s liberal wing, said the importance of collective action is “there is strength in numbers. You have to protect the individual worker in a situation where he can’t protect himself.”

The conservative justices appeared to have a different view of the case.

Chief Justice John Roberts sounded concerned about a ruling for the workers, which he said “would invalidate contracts for 25 million employees.” That’s the estimated number of non-union workers who have contracts with the individual arbitration provision that is at the heart of the case.

One of the term’s biggest cases, about partisan advantage in drawing electoral districts, is set for argument Tuesday. It has the potential to reshape American politics, if the court for the first time rules that political maps can be excessively partisan.

The justices took their seats just after 10 a.m. on the first Monday in October, the day prescribed in federal law as the start of the high court term. Roberts quickly declared the last term over and the new one, begun. Then he welcomed the nation’s new solicitor general, Noel Francisco, who was confirmed by the Senate last month as the Trump administration’s top Supreme Court lawyer.

Associated Press