WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Bob Menendez and Cory Booker and a group of 38 senators introduced legislation to stop the use of unfair forced arbitration clauses, which are widely used to limit Americans’ access to justice. The FAIR (Forced Arbitration Injustice Repeal) Act would eliminate forced arbitration clauses in consumer, antitrust, employment, and civil rights cases, and would allow consumers and workers to freely choose arbitration after a dispute occurs.
“Big corporations should not be able to force consumers and workers to accept secret proceedings where they get to write the rules, pick the judge and choose the evidence,” said Sen. Menendez. “The FAIR Act ends this rigged practice and opens the courthouse doors so consumers and workers can seek the justice they deserve. Forced arbitration unjustly denies Americans of their day in court. Corporations are not above the law and should be held publicly accountable in court when they rip people off.”
Forced arbitration clauses restrict Americans’ access to justice by stripping consumers and workers of their right to go to court. Instead, consumers and workers are forced into an unfair arbitration system where corporations can write the rules; everything can be done in secret, without public rulings; discovery can be limited, making it hard for consumers to get the evidence they need to prove their case; and there’s no meaningful judicial review, so consumers and employees are often unable to appeal a decision even if the arbitrator gets it wrong.
The FAIR Act is co-sponsored in the Senate by: Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Catherine Cortez-Masto (D-Nev.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Gary Peters (D-Mich.), Jackie Rosen (D-Nev.), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Diane Feinstein (D-Calif.), Tom Carper (D-Del.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.), Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.), and Jon Ossoff (D-Ga.).
A companion measure was introduced in the House of Representatives in February by U.S. Representative Hank Johnson (Ga.-04), Chairman of the Judiciary Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property and the Internet. Johnson announced bill’s introduction at a hearing on “Justice Restored: Ending Forced Arbitration and Protecting Fundamental Rights” in the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial, and Administrative Law.
Sens. Menendez and Booker cosponsored similar legislation in the last Congress, but it was blocked by Senate Republican leadership from getting a vote, despite it being overwhelmingly approved by the House of Representatives with a strong, bipartisan, 225-186 vote.
The FAIR Act is supported by a broad coalition of more than seventy public-interest groups including: A Better Balance, AKPIRG, Alliance for Justice, American Association for Justice, Americans for Financial Reform, Association of Late Deafened Adults (ALDA), Autistic Self Advocacy Network, Bayard Rustin Liberation Initiative, Better Markets, California Employment Lawyers Association, California Reinvestment Coalition, Center for Auto Safety, Center for Economic Integrity, Center for Justice & Democracy, Center for Popular Democracy, Center for Responsible Lending, Citizen Works, Committee to Support the Antitrust Laws, Consumer Action, Consumer Federation of America, Consumer Reports, Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety, Consumer Watchdog, D.C. Consumer Rights Coalition, Demos, Delaware Community Reinvestment Action Council, Inc., Disability Rights Advocates, Disability Rights Legal Center, Disability Rights Texas, Earthjustice, Economic Policy Institute, Every Texan, Googlers for Ending Forced Arbitration, Impact Fund, Justice for Migrant Women, KGACLC, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada, Legal Aid Justice Center, Long Term Care Community Coalition, Make the Road New York, Maryland Consumer Rights Coalition, NAACP, NACA-Ohio, National Association of Consumer Advocates, National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys (NACBA), National Association of the Deaf, National Center for Law and Economic Justice, National Consumer Law Center (on behalf of its low income clients), National Consumers League , The National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care, The National Disabled Law Students Association, National Disability Rights Network (NDRN), National Employment Law Project, National Employment Lawyers Association, National LGBTQ Task Force Action Fund, National Network to End Domestic Violence, National Organization for Women, National Women’s Health Network, National Women’s Law Center, New Economy Project, New Georgia Project, New Jersey Citizen Action, Northwest Workers’ Justice Project, Oregon Communications Access Project, People’s Parity Project, Public Citizen, Public Good Law Center, Public Justice, Public Justice Center, Public Law Center, Rights & Democracy, NH & VT, S.C. Appleseed Legal Justice Center, Sikh Coalition, SPLC Action Fund, Strategic Organizing Center, Student Borrower Protection Center, Texas Watch, Towards Justice, Veterans Education Success, Virginia Organizing, VOICE-OKC, the Washington State Communication Access Project.