17 November 2015

"Thousands of corporations are using forced arbitration clauses to deny the rights of ripped-off consumers."

In today's e-mail I received a notice of a petition to congress regarding the Arbitration Fairness Act (S. 1133 and H.R. 2087) which looks like an issue that needs attention from we, the people.  The sponsoring organization, Public Citizen, is an organization founded by Ralph Nader in 1971 "dedicated to protecting health, safety, and democracy."  The request asks of us:  "Tell Congress: Ban Forced Arbitration Congress Should Restore Consumer Rights by Passing the Arbitration Fairness Act." 

Most of us recognize that corporations have far more power in relation to we, the people, than is healthy for our nation.  As such, this petition is about legislation that prevents corporations from turning the screws tighter with a "rigged system of private arbitration" by the use of 'corporations’ handpicked arbitrators instead of impartial judges".

Myself, I like to read the actual legislation before signing anything because I have encountered petitions that are misleading about the legislation of concern because after reading the bill it became clear the problem cited by the petition request was not actually a problem.  In fact I have found petitions that are not related in any way to the pending bills cited! 

I also like to read articles and opinions about pending legislation prior to signing petitions advising our elected and appointed officials.  It is not difficult to get a good idea about this particular issue at the petition site because it provides useful information links.  The petition, itself, is one brief sentence, direct and to the point. 

The links at the petition site lead us to a New York Times Editorial, also to a blog of the organization sponsoring the petition in which a three part series in New York Times is cited, part 1 being from 31 October.  I included those links, below.  
The legislation is referred to as "the Arbitration Fairness Act" (S. 1133 and H.R. 2087) so I plugged in "Arbitration Fairness Act" at the Library of Congress THOMAS website search.  Bill numbers can be used to search, also.  The THOMAS website is "in the spirit of Thomas Jefferson, legislative information from the Library of Congress". 

THOMAS produced House and Senate versions of the bill: 

 1. H.R.2087 : Arbitration Fairness Act of 2015
Sponsor: Rep Johnson, Henry C. "Hank," Jr. [GA-4] (introduced 4/29/2015)      Cosponsors (74)
Committees: House Judiciary
Latest Major Action: 6/26/2015 Referred to House subcommittee. Status: Referred to the Subcommittee on Regulatory Reform, Commercial And Antitrust Law.

2. S.1133 : Arbitration Fairness Act of 2015
Sponsor: Sen Franken, Al [MN] (introduced 4/29/2015)      Cosponsors (18)
Committees: Senate Judiciary
Latest Major Action: 4/29/2015 Referred to Senate committee. Status: Read twice and referred to the Committee on the Judiciary.

Sometimes THOMAS links go to Congress.gov.  Actually THOMAS and Congress.gov  are two different federal government websites, but Congress.gov states: "Congress.gov is replacing THOMAS.gov. The retirement date of THOMAS will be announced in early 2016." 

It looks like THOMAS links provide more details associated with the legislation than GovTrack.  But it is possible to formulate an opinion without all the associated legislative details associated with process.  I also plugged in "Arbitration Fairness Act" at the GovTrack "Search for Legislation" which also produced the House and Senate versions of the bill. 

H.R. 2087: Arbitration Fairness Act of 2015
Sponsor: Rep. Henry “Hank” Johnson [D-GA4]
Introduced: Apr 29, 2015
Referred to Committee: Apr 29, 2015

S. 1133: Arbitration Fairness Act of 2015
Sponsor: Sen. Alan “Al” Franken [D-MN]
Introduced: Apr 29, 2015
Referred to Committee: Apr 29, 2015

Let us remember that Ralph Nader started successfully leading the charge associated with consumer rights decades ago and has stayed with it, consistently, all these years.  When Public Citizen is advocating for an issue I consider it is worth my attention because Nader's work for consumer rights and safety has been and continues to be of immeasurable value to we, the people, collectively. 

If you know about this issue and think we should be advising our Congress people of our wishes then, hopefully, you will take a moment to check out the petition link, and if it seems reasonable sign the petition requesting of Congress that it ban forced arbitration by restoring consumer rights with the passing of the Arbitration Fairness Act.  If you are not familiar with the issue then, hopefully, you will make use of the links to look further into the issue, then sign if it seems reasonable.

"Thousands of corporations are using forced arbitration clauses to deny the rights of ripped-off consumers.

These clauses block ripped-off consumers from holding corporations accountable in court.  Instead, consumers are routed into the rigged system of private arbitration, where decisions are in the hands of corporations’ handpicked arbitrators instead of impartial judges.

It’s time for Congress to step up and stop these unconscionable clauses once and for all."