Attorney General Nessel Files Brief in Support of Transportation Worker’s Rights

Attorney General Dana Nessel has joined a coalition of 18 attorneys general in filing an amicus brief that urges the Supreme Court to affirm a lower court’s decision that transportation workers who load and unload interstate cargo are exempt from the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA).

The FAA requires workers to raise claims against their employer in private arbitration proceedings when they have signed an arbitration agreement, but there is an exception within the FAA for transportation workers.

According to officials, in a brief filed in Southwest Airlines Co. vs. Saxon, the coalition supports Latrice Saxon, a ramp agent supervisor at Midway Airport, in her claim that she and other cargo workers fall within the FAA’s exemption for transportation workers.

The attorneys general assert that those workers should be afforded the right to raise claims against their employer outside of private arbitration.

“Cargo workers play a major role in keeping our state running efficiently and like any other transportation worker, deserve protections. Furthermore, it is important for workers’ rights issues to be heard in public for a so that States can ensure employers are providing safe and lawful working conditions,” Nessel said. “I join my colleagues in urging the Supreme Court to uphold the FAA’s interpretation exempting cargo workers.”

The coalition also argues in the brief that the transportation sector plays a critical role in state economies and infrastructure. Additionally, they argue that a disruption in transportation or shipping operations caused by labor conflicts has the potential to impact almost every aspect of commerce within a state.

As a result, the coalition asserts that states have an interest in making sure disputes involving transportation workers are resolved in public and transparent proceedings that allow states to monitor disputes and respond as needed, as opposed to private and confidential arbitration proceedings designed by employers.

Furthermore, the coalition says states are better able to perform their investigatory and enforcement duties when disputes are resolved in public forums.

They say when workers are subjected to arbitration agreements, which are usually drafted by employers and include confidentiality provisions as well as other terms, it is harder for states to gather information about the pervasiveness of unlawful practices.

Moreover, the coalition argues that requiring transportation workers to arbitrate their claims would affect the amount of publicly available information related to working conditions of employees, hindering their ability to protect workers from unsafe and unlawful working conditions.