Displaying 3 category results for August 2010.x

Grocers' plan to share profits during strike violates antitrust law, Ninth Circuit holds

By Lori Irish Bauman
August 26, 2010

When faced with a strike by their unionized employees in 2003, four supermarket chains in Southern California entered into a Mutual Strike Assistance Agreement.  The chains agreed that they would lock out all union employees in the event of a strike against one of them, and that they would redistribute and share profits during the course of the strike. 

While the lock-out agreement is a traditional tactic in labor disputes, the profit-sharing agreement drew the attention of the State of California, which sued the supermarkets alleging an unlawful agreement in restraint of trade, in violation of Section 1 of the Sherman Act.  In California v. Safeway, Inc., the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals last week held that the agreement was unlawful, and directed that summary judgment be entered in favor of the state. 

The supermarkets argued that the profit-sharing arrangement was justified because it was designed to end once the labor dispute was resolved, and did not decrease the number of competitors in the market.  Further, they argued, it served the pro-competitive purpose of resisting an increase in labor costs by allowing the supermarkets to fend off union demands.  Finally, they contended that the agreement was subject to an exemption from the antitrust laws for the purpose of engaging in labor negotiations. 

The Ninth Circuit rejected all of those arguments, holding "to exempt defendants' anticompetitive agreement from the antitrust laws simply because it was entered into in order to help employers prevail in a labor dispute would be contrary to the fundamental priciples of both labor and antitrust law, as well as the actions of both Congress and the courts in their efforts to reconcile those two important bodies of national law."

Wal-Mart asks Supreme Court to review employment class action

By Lori Irish Bauman
August 25, 2010
Wal-Mart today filed a petition for certiorari in the U.S. Supreme Court, asking the Court to review certification of a huge employment class action lawsuit.  Plaintiffs in Dukes v. Wal-Mart allege that Wal-Mart discriminates against women in pay and promotions, and they seek to represent a class of some 1.5 million current and former employees.  Wal-Mart contends the class -- the largest ever in an employment case -- includes too many members, and presents too many individual issues, to be adjudicated in a single action.  So far the federal District Court in California and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals have disagreed.  See SCOTUS Blog's coverage of the petition for certiorari here, and our earlier coverage of the case here.

Multnomah County offers fast track to civil trials

By Lori Irish Bauman
August 4, 2010
In response to the long-term decline in the number of trials in civil cases, Multnomah County Circuit Court now offers an expedited track for jury trials.  Presiding Judge Jean Kerr Maurer has announced a new initiative for "summary jury trials."  If parties choose to participate, they will conduct limited discovery and will be able to go to trial within four months.  See more details here.