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The Wal-Mart Decision: One Year Later

- by Greta Foster

On Wednesday, June 20th about fifty people gathered in front of the United States Supreme Court to speak out against the Court's 2011 decision in Wal-Mart v. Dukes, which drastically changed the process by which employees could group together to challenge employment discrimination. The crowd, organized and coordinated by the American Association of University Women, was joined by many organizations including NOW, Alliance for Justice, and National Partnerships for Women and Families. People a block away could hear chants of, “What do we need? FAIR PAY! When do we need it? NOW!”

Betty Dukes joins the crowd outside the Supreme Court building
The crowd was further roused when Betty Dukes, the lead plaintiff in the original case, stepped forward to address the group of protesters.

Although the Supreme Court last year ruled in favor of Wal-Mart and said that the women harmed by the retail giant's discriminatory practices could not band together in a class action, Dukes spoke words of encouragement and triumph to the crowd: “We have to continue to fight to make a stance for righteousness and justice for women everywhere.”

Dukes told supporters that she will remain “determined to stand up, step forward, and speak out.” Recently, she launched her own website, bettydukesvoice.com, to serve as a platform for her advocacy efforts.

Although the rally centered on the anniversary of the Wal-Mart decision, it also served as a platform to present the Equal Employment Opportunity Restoration Act, legislation designed to restore the rights of workers and their ability to stand together to challenge discrimination. The bill was unveiled by Senators Al Franken (D-MN) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Representatives Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) at a press conference following the rally.

As of Wednesday, June 20 the bill had 22 co-sponsors in the United States Senate and 36 co-sponsors in the United States House of Representatives.

One year after the Wal-Mart decision, Congress is making an effort to correct and amend the challenges imposed by the Supreme Court, organizations continue to fight and build momentum for equality and justice for all workers, and ordinary citizens are taking steps to move on the side of justice. It is uncertain if legislation such as Equal Employment Opportunity Restoration Act or the Paycheck Fairness Act will be enacted by Congress; however, it is certain that the movement will continue to build more support for employee rights and equality under the law.