On June 20, some 1.5 million female employees who filed a class-action suit against WalMart for discrimination based on sex were faced with the cruel reality of corporate hegemony and sexism when their case was dismissed by the Supreme Court. Their case constituted the most important class-action case in over a decade.
Although there is ample evidence of WalMart’s sexist discrimination both in wages and in hiring, the case was thrown out because there is no company-wide written policy of discrimination.
The plaintiffs argued that women are underrepresented among managers and hold only 14% of managerial positions versus over 80% of lower-ranking supervisory jobs that come with an hourly wage.
Regrettably, this decision will affect forthcoming class-action claims against Costco and other companies. Other major companies, including Goldman-Sachs & Co., Toshiba, and Cigna Healthcare Inc. also face class-action claims from female employees. It is important to note that the court did not rule on whether or not WalMart was discriminatory, just that the plaintiffs could not proceed as a “class.”
Despite this tragic blow to the labor movement and to the ongoing struggle for women’s rights, WalMart workers angered by the Supreme Court’s decision vow to continue a united struggle. Further, they plan to file individual lawsuits against WalMart for sex discrimination.
> The article above was written by Ona Tzinger. It first appeared in the July 2011 print edition of Socialist Action newspaper.