See “Betty v. Goliath” Interview with Dan Rather

Posted by at 9:13 am on March 4, 2011

Next Tuesday’s “Dan Rather Reports” will present a story about Betty Dukes, a 61 year old Walmart greeter from California who says she has been discriminated against on the basis of her gender.And Dukes is not alone. She is the lead plaintiff on a class action suit that could include millions of other women who have worked at Walmart, most as hourly wage earners. But the Supreme Court will not be deciding the merits of their discrimination case.

What’s at stake is the very definition of what a “class action” can be. And that has everyone from big business, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, to civil rights lawyers very invested in the outcome. But ultimately, legal theory has a very real impact on the lives of individuals like Dukes.

With the size of class action lawsuits growing larger and larger, Congress passed a law in 2005 making it harder to file class action suits and, in his 2005 State of the Union address, then-President George W. Bush said, “Justice is distorted, and our economy is held back, by irresponsible class actions…”

However, Brad Seligman, the lead attorney on Dukes’ case says that Walmart’s goal is clear.

“They wanna make it impossible for any large class action to be brought, for the very simple reason that a company this large, a large class action is the only thing that’s gonna change them,” Seligman told Rather. “But this company has over $400 billion of revenue every year. That’s less than a bug bite on the rear end of an elephant. It doesn’t make any difference whatsoever.”

In a rare television interview, Dukes, an ordained Baptist minister tells Rather that her faith has supported her through the rough terrain of being the lead plaintiff at a company she still works for. Said Dukes, “I kind of feel like Moses at the Red Sea.”

“Dan Rather Reports: Betty v. Goliath” premieres on HDNet, Tuesday, March 8 at 8:00 p.m. ET with an encore at 11:00 p.m. ET.

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