On September 20, the House of Representatives passed the Forced Arbitration FAIR Act (225 in favor to 186 opposed) to end forced arbitration in all its forms and consumers’ Seventh Amendment rights to a civil trial by a jury of their peers. This legislation marks the first time in decades that a branch of Congress has voted to restore these rights to the people on such a grand scale.
Forced arbitration is a system designed by corporations that requires Americans to “agree” to surrender their fundamental constitutional rights to a trial by jury. This “agreement” is often buried amongst a stack of paperwork that consumers or new employees are made to sign as part of their transaction, and oftentimes consumers and workers agree to arbitration without ever realizing they’ve done so. In arbitration, when corporations harm workers and consumers by skirting safety rules, stealing, or even breaking the law, cases that should be heard by a judge or jury are instead funneled into an arbitration system that is oftentimes controlled by the wrongdoer in the first place. In arbitration, there is no right to go to court, no right to have a jury of your peers decide your case, no right to an official record of the proceedings, no right to discover the other side’s evidence, no transparency, no legal precedents to follow, very few rules, no guarantee of an arbitrator with legal expertise, and no meaningful appellate review. Without such checks and balances, the deck is stacked heavily in favor of the corporate wrongdoer.
The argument for arbitration has been that it is faster, fairer, and better for workers and consumers than going to court. However, data provided by the arbitration organizations makes clear that the end result of forced arbitration is to eliminates claims and immunize corporations from wrongdoing. The House’s passage of the FAIR Act is a major step towards righting this wrong for all American consumers, workers and patients. The fight now moves to the Senate, where the battle will continue. Forced arbitration can become a relic of the past if we stand up for each other’s Seventh Amendment rights. If you want to speak out against this unfair practice, please contact your federal representatives and urge them to vote to end forced arbitration.