US Supreme Court eliminates workers’ right to collectively sue corporations

by Eric London from WSWS

The United States Supreme Court’s 5–4 decision in Epic Systems Corp. v. Lewis eliminates the right of tens of millions of workers to bring class action lawsuits against their employers. With the bang of a gavel, the Supreme Court has effectively stripped workers of their legal rights and guaranteed the flow of even greater fortunes to the corporate and financial oligarchy, which controls America’s legal and political system.

The majority opinion, written by Trump nominee Neil Gorsuch, upholds the legality of mandatory arbitration clauses that bar workers from filing lawsuits. This locks the courtroom doors for coal miners suffering from black lung, construction workers with mesothelioma, fast food workers cheated of overtime pay, farmworkers denied the minimum wage, waitresses sexually harassed by their bosses, and countless other workers suffering forms of workplace abuse and exploitation. It announces “open season” for intensified corporate exploitation at tens of thousands of workplaces across the country.

The decision revives the legal doctrine of the Gilded Age elaborated by the Supreme Court’s 1905 decision Lochner v. New York, which overturned a state law limiting the workday to 10 hours on the absurd grounds that the regulations violated workers’ “right” to work as long as they want. In reality, that ruling safeguarded the power of corporations to exploit workers without recourse.

Today’s Supreme Court followed a similar logic, justifying its decision to eliminate workers’ right to sue with the lie that workers are always free to negotiate better contracts with their corporate bosses.

According to the Economic Policy Institute, roughly 60 million workers—56 percent of all private-sector nonunion workers—now no longer have access to the courts. Arbitration is a sham process set up by the corporations to deprive workers of even the minimal protections afforded by the courts and to spare businesses the cost of litigation.

Arbitration forces workers to take their grievances to a private tribunal. Sixty percent of all arbitrators are lawyers who formerly represented corporations. Arbitrators develop corrupt relationships with corporate lawyers who regularly appear before their tribunals and almost always rule against workers. Due process is severely limited as the rules of the arbitration are written by the corporations themselves.

According to a 2015 study, workers prevail in only 20 percent of all claims brought to arbitration and win an average of just $23,548. By comparison, workers win 57 percent of cases in state court, with an average compensation of $328,008…

[read more here]

US housing secretary proposes tripling of rent for the poor

from WSWS

US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Ben Carson’s “Making Affordable Housing Work Act of 2018,” unveiled last week, would spell destitution for the poorest households receiving federal rental assistance, virtually all of which have annual incomes of less than $7,000. Roughly 1.7 million people, including 1 million children, would face eviction and homelessness.

The typical household affected would be a single mother with two children, with an annual income of $2,400—or just $200 a month. After paying rent, under this proposal, the family would have only $48 left to pay for necessities like clothing, diapers, school supplies and food or medical needs not covered by other assistance.

The housing proposal would impose a mandatory tripling of the minimum rent for households with an adult younger than 65, to at least $152; raise rents from the current 30 percent to 35 percent of gross income; and allow local public housing authorities to impose work requirements on those receiving benefits.

Carson’s sadistic plan is only the latest in a series of attacks on the most vulnerable and impoverished Americans that are being proposed or carried out at the federal and state level. It follows an executive order by President Trump instructing the secretaries of six federal departments to seek out new ways to gut existing programs and impose work requirements for Medicaid, food stamps, home heating assistance, housing assistance and welfare benefits…

These punitive cuts come as corporate boardrooms across the country toast the “booming” economy and rising stockpiles of cash, now at an estimated record of some $2 trillion. Recent reports have shown median CEO pay at the nation’s 100 largest corporations rising to an 11-year high of $15.7 million, 235 times the pay of workers. Earlier this month the major Wall Street banks reported record profits for the first quarter of 2018…

[read more here]

US CEO pay, bank profits, corporate cash set new records

(This is neoliberal fascism and it is accelerating under the “CHANGE” presidency of Donald Trump)

by Barry Grey, WSWS

Across the United States, workers are being told by Democrats and Republicans alike that there is “no money” for decent wages, pensions or health care. Teachers from West Virginia to Oklahoma, Kentucky, Arizona and other states are rebelling against near-poverty wages and years of school cuts only to be told by the politicians and union leaders that their demands are “unrealistic” and cannot be met.

But a series of reports on CEO pay, bank profits and corporate cash released over the past week reveal that corporate America and the financial oligarchy are wallowing in record levels of wealth. The Washington Post reported on Friday that, boosted by the tax cut for corporations and the rich passed in December, the biggest US firms “find themselves sitting on an Everest of cash,” with “profits pouring in faster than they can find productive ways to spend it.”

“As of the end of 2017,” the Post noted, “companies in the Standard & Poor’s 500 stock index were sitting on the largest cash pile in history: nearly $1.8 trillion.”

The windfall from the Trump tax cut, passed with no serious opposition from the Democrats, is not, contrary to the lies used to justify the law, going to create new, good-paying jobs and rebuild the country’s crumbing infrastructure. It is being used for stock buybacks, a parasitic squandering of the wealth produced by the labor of the working class to drive up stock prices and the portfolios of rich investors and corporate executives.

In February alone, US corporations announced a single-month record $150.7 billion in buybacks. They are expected to hit a new yearly record in 2018, surpassing the previous record of $589 billion set in 2007, the year before the Wall Street crash. Over the past 10 years, the American capitalist class has spent $5.1 trillion in stock buybacks.

To put this in perspective, the Oklahoma teachers, among the lowest-paid in the country, demanded $200 million in additional school funding to begin to address a decade of brutal cuts. The state government agreed to a mere $50 million, which the Oklahoma Education Association hailed as a “victory.”

The amount requested by the teachers represents a mere 0.01 percent of the cash being hoarded by US corporations…

[read more here]

The Real Goal of “Russiagate” is to Prepare for Endless Austerity and War

by Glen Ford, BAR

“The ruling circles of the imperial superpower set out to destabilize and call into disrepute the government of the home country.”

Robert Mueller, the former head of the national political police (FBI), has indicted 13 Russian nationals for the crime of sowing “discord in the U.S. political system” and encouraging “U.S. minority groups not to vote in the 2016 U.S. presidential election or to vote for a third-party U.S. presidential candidate.” The defendants’ nationality makes their acts of political speech a crime, in Mueller’s legal view, but “at least 20 Americans” are embedded in the document as unindicted co-conspirators “ because they interacted in various ways with the Russian team’s activities during the 2016 presidential campaign.

These U.S. citizens “were just engaging in politics,” said independent journalist Marcy Wheeler, on Democracy Now! “They were putting together campaign events. They were engaging in online speech. That’s like, you know, the most sacred part of being an American citizen. And yet, they were unknowingly interacting with Russians….”

The Russians will never face trial in the U.S., and it is highly unlikely that the unindicted Americans will be criminally charged — but that is not the purpose of Mueller’s indictment. The political crime has been defined, for the broad purpose of repressing dissent in the United States. The witch hunt has found a legalistic vocabulary…

…The cabal has flipped the factual script. It was the Democrats and their allies in corporate media and the national security state that devised a calculated campaign to sow “discord” and “distrust towards the political system in general,” such as not seen in living memory. The initial goal was to depose or discipline the unpredictable, racist billionaire who in 2016 crushed the establishment leaders of the Republican Party — potentially destabilizing the duopoly system of corporate governance — rhetorically rejected the dogma of “free trade,” and spoke as if he would not maintain the momentum of his predecessor’s global military offensive. With the “intelligence community” on point, the political offensive could not help but take on the characteristics of a profoundly destabilizing regime change and psychological operations mission.

In other words, the ruling circles of the imperial superpower set out to destabilize and call into disrepute the sitting government of the home country. They have inflicted great trauma and anxiety among the public in the process, but thanks to the corporate media component of the cabal, most of the blame has accrued to the targets of the campaign: Trump, “the Russians” and those defamed as “dupes” and “co-conspirators” with the fictitious Putin-Trump axis.

It is quite evident that this campaign of self-inflicted chaos is a project of the global corporate class, manifesting elsewhere in the “West” in remarkably similar fashion, but with local characteristics. Russia is, thus, charged with attempting to subvert governments around the world through minions like the St. Petersburg outfit. Through their servants in the Democratic Party, the corporate media, and the intelligence agencies, multinational capital has used Trump’s election to inflict a kind of shock treatment on their domestic polities — a very dangerous gambit, especially in the United States, with its weak social contract and immense capacity for civil violence…

[read more here]

Three Protesters Arrested At UCLA for Speaking Out Against Goldman Sach’s Steve Mnuchin (arrest video)

by Scott Creighton

Here is a video of three young people who spoke out at Treasury Sec. Steve Mnuchin’s UCLA visit the other day. This video was taken outside in the hallway after they were removed by force from the auditorium. The officers calmly and routinely arrested them for doing nothing more than speaking out during the event. One can understand them taking them out of the venue since they seemed dedicated to shouting during the event rather than waiting until a Q&A session. Free speech does also apply to neoliberal fascists like Mnuchin by the way. However, when you look at the damage being done by these ghouls to our society, especially to the poor and working classes, you can kinda understand why young people feel so deeply about trying to be heard and keep these greedy, corrupt fucks from feeling comfortable in settings involving the general public.

To remove these kids is one thing. To place them in hand cuffs, man-handle them and ultimately arrest them is another entirely. I suppose in this day and age we should be glad they didn’t pull a Rodney King on em. Little blessings here in the Shining City on the Hill and I make that reference on purpose because it seems the “Reagan Revolution” is upon us in full swing again.

After Being Told He’s ‘Full of Sh*t’ at School Event, Mnuchin Demands UCLA Suppress Video

from Common Dreams

Trump Treasury Secretary and former Goldman Sachs banker Steve Mnuchin isn’t accustomed to facing direct challenges to his wild economic claims or protests over the GOP tax plan he helped craft, and after experiencing both during an event at UCLA’s Burkle Center on Monday, Mnuchin demanded that video of his appearance be suppressed.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Mnuchin complained to the audience that he usually only talks to “people who wanna listen to me speak” after students and others attending the event yelled out “I think you’re full of shit” and denounced the Republican tax bill as an attack on “people who are in poverty.”

After noting that it was his first time speaking at a university, an increasingly “agitated” Mnuchin “stopped the conversation several times, asking the hecklers either to identify themselves or explain what they were protesting,” the Journal reported on Wednesday.

UCLA initially planned to post a full video of the event to its website later this week, but a university spokeswoman told the Journal that Mnuchin “retracted his permission for the Burkle Center to post its video and podcast of yesterday’s event on its website.”

But thanks to students and reporters who were in attendance, a few short videos of the event ultimately emerged on social media…

[read more here]

If Police Don’t Have to Protect the Public, What Good Are They?

by Jason Whitehead, MintPress News

In the American police state, police have a tendency to shoot first and ask questions later. In fact, police don’t usually need much incentive to shoot and kill members of the public.

Police have shot and killed Americans of all ages—many of them unarmed—for standing a certain way, or moving a certain way, or holding something—anything—that police could misinterpret to be a gun, or igniting some trigger-centric fear in a police officer’s mind that has nothing to do with an actual threat to their safety…

Now before your outrage bubbles over, consider that the U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly affirmed (most recently in 2005) that police have no constitutional duty to protect members of the public from harm.

Yes, you read that correctly.

In other words, you can be outraged that cops in Florida did nothing to stop the school shooter, but technically, it wasn’t part of their job description.

This begs the question: if the police don’t have a duty to protect the public, what are we paying them for? And who exactly do they serve if not you and me?

Why do we have more than a million cops on the taxpayer-funded payroll in this country whose jobs do not entail protecting our safety, maintaining the peace in our communities, and upholding our liberties?

Why do we have more than a million cops who have been fitted out in the trappings of war, drilled in the deadly art of combat, and trained to look upon “every individual they interact with as an armed threat and every situation as a deadly force encounter in the making?

I’ll tell you why.

It’s the same reason why the Trump Administration has made a concerted effort to expand the police state’s power to search, strip, seize, raid, steal from, arrest and jail Americans for any infraction, no matter how insignificant.

This is no longer a government “of the people, by the people, for the people.”

It is fast becoming a government “of the rich, by the elite, for the corporations,” and its rise to power is predicated on shackling the American taxpayer to a life of indentured servitude…

[read more here]