Union workers' anti-discrimination rights can be bargained away
In a reversal of public policy, the U.S. Supreme Court decided last week that a union majority, or its executive council, can bargain away individual rights relating to discrimination. Historically, the Supreme Court had rejected this kind of argument, noting that a majority within the union may be willing to trade individual rights--or allow discrimination against an insular minority--if it can secure benefits for the broader membership. In last week's 5-4 decision, written by Justice Thomas, the majority overturned the 1974 Alexander v. Gardner-Denver Company decision and allowed the union to bargain away federal age-discrimination protections. The Union had acquiesced in employer demands that age discrimination claims be resolved only through arbitration and that normal civil procedure rights (including the right to a jury trial) be relinquished.