In the first decision of the court under the leadership of Chief Justice John Roberts, the Court cleared the way for 815 Tyson employees to receive $7.3 million in a class action suit originally filed by TDU members in Pasco, Wash. in 1998.
In a unanimous decision, the court ruled that workers should be paid for the time it takes them to put on their protective clothing and walk from the locker room to the production line. Previously, Tyson management saved millions of dollars by forcing workers to do this work off the clock.
The case was closely watched by organized labor and big business alike. The victory means that tens of thousands of poultry workers will likely succeed in two nationwide class action cases that are now pending against Tyson.
The Supreme Court victory also paves the way for workers to collect an additional $11.4 million in unpaid wages that they were awarded in 2004 in a second class action lawsuit against Tyson. More litigation is expected.
“It took a long time, but it was worth the wait just to show that workers can win when we get together,” said Maria Martinez, a Teamster and TDU leader who was the main organizer behind both lawsuits.