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HOBB Update Message
Sunday, 03 May 2009

A message from Janet Ahmad: Arbitration Fairness Day in Washington DC a Great Success – Poll shows 6 in 10 likely voters support the Arbitration Fairness Act

A message from Janet Ahmad
Arbitration Fairness Day in Washington DC a Great Success – Poll shows 6 in 10 likely voters support the Arbitration Fairness Act 

This past Wednesday the buzz phrase in Washington DC was “Fair Arbitration NOW,” as advocates from across the country filed the halls and legislative offices on Capitol Hill with energy as they delivered their personal messages, and the need to restore consumers rule of law protections and the constitutional right to their day in court.

The results of a new poll conducted by Lake Research Partners were unveiled at a press conference, organized by the Fair Arbitration Now Coalition, which represents consumers, employees, homeowners and franchise holders. The groups range from Public Citizen, the National Association of Consumer Advocates, the National Employment Lawyers Association and the American Association for Justice to the National Consumer Voice for Long-Term Care, Home Owners for Better Building and the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights.  See Poll Results...

Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI) and Congressman Hank Johnson (D-GA) opened the noon press conference (
View photos) announcing the filing of the Arbitration Fairness Act of  2009, which would end the abusive practice of forced arbitration by big corporations.

"Americans are sick and tired of a system that so strongly favors big corporations over consumers and in this case robs them of their constitutional right to their day in court," Feingold said.  "Americans are often given no choice but to give up their rights if they want to sign credit card agreements, cell phone contracts, job applications or other basic contracts. It's time for Congress to side with consumers and employees and end this practice of forced arbitration, which stacks the deck against the people Congress is supposed to represent."

“This is not an anti-business bill, but a pro-consumer bill,” said Johnson. “One of our indelible rights is the right of a jury trial.

Feingold and Johnson were joined by a large number of homeowners and other victims of tragedies which were compounded by forced arbitration.  Jamie Leigh Jones of Houston, Texas was raped by co-workers while working for a Halliburton subsidiary in Iraq .  Her company said she couldn’t go to court because the employment agreement she signed required her claims to be settled through arbitration.  Burlington, Wisconsin resident David Kurth lost his father as a result of poor care at a nursing home.  When the family tried to sue, the nursing home claimed the paperwork a family member signed when the father was admitted required the matter to go to arbitration.

The poll conducted by Lake Research Partners and unveiled at the event showed:  

  • Six in 10 likely voters support the Arbitration Fairness Act – including majorities of Democrats, Republicans and Independents;  
  • 59 percent of likely voters oppose the use of mandatory binding arbitration clauses in employment and consumer contracts; 
  • Two-thirds of respondents cannot remember ever reading about a forced arbitration provision buried in the fine print of employment terms or agreement for goods and services; and,  
  • More than 70 percent of respondents believe they could take their employer or a corporation to court in the event of a dispute, unaware they could be subjected to mandatory binding arbitration.  

Together we have and will continue to make a difference!  Help us to help you by keeping in touch.  Your participation is vital. Tell your story through HOBB , write to your elected officials, and write the press.  Please take a few minutes to post your comments on the HOBB Forum.

Thank you,
Janet Ahmad, President
Home Owners for Better Building
  *******************************************
News Updates:
All Americans Are Entitled To Their Day In Court
PRESS CONFERENCE: FEINGOLD INTRODUCES CONSUMER JUSTICE LEGISLATION
Restoring The Rule of Law 
Washington , D.C. - U.S. Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI) is reintroducing legislation to protect the right of Americans to have their day in court. The bill would make pre-dispute agreements requiring arbitration for any employment, consumer, franchise, or civil rights disputes unenforceable.  The bill does not prohibit arbitration, but rather prevents a party with greater bargaining power from forcing individuals into arbitration through a contractual provision and ensures that citizens have a true choice between arbitration and the traditional civil court system. Similar legislation, H.R. 1020, was previously introduced in the House of Representatives by Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA). Like Johnson’s bill, Feingold’s legislation does not generally apply to collective bargaining agreements, but it includes a new provision to reverse a recent Supreme Court ruling (14 Penn Plaza v. Pyett) that arbitration provisions contained in such agreements can waive an employee’s right to enforce employment discrimination laws in court. View Press Conference...  View photos

Senator Russ Feingold & Cong. Hank Johnson Introduce Bill Arbitration Fairness Act 2009
Consumer Protection Measure Introduced In Senate
Sen Russ Feingold (D-Wisc.) introduced a bill Wednesday that would prevent companies from forcing consumers and employees into arbitration agreements. Arbitration clauses pop up in contracts for things as small as cell phones and as big as jobs. At a press conference on the Hill, victims of tragedies made worse by forced arbitration shared their stories. One of them, Jamie Leigh Jones, provided a statement saying she was gang-raped by her Halliburton subsidiary co-workers in Baghdad in 2005..."Unfortunately, my case is not an isolated incident," Jones said. Read more...

New Poll: Big Business Win 84% of Arbitration Cases they Initiate
Poll: Americans Oppose Forced Arbitration, Demand Corporations Be Held Accountable
Washington, DC – Americans widely oppose corporations using mandatory binding arbitration clauses in the fine print of consumer and employment contracts, according to national polling of likely voters conducted by Lake Research Partners. Forced arbitration clauses are hidden in the fine print of everything from cell phone, home, credit card and retirement account terms of agreement to employment and nursing home contracts...Fair Arbitration Now Coalition, an organization of consumer and community groups released poll results last week showing most people have no idea they're giving up a constitutional right when they sign contracts containing an arbitration clause. When details of mandatory arbitration are made clear, 59% of Americans say they oppose the practice and would back legislation requiring that arbitration be voluntary, the poll found...companies win nearly 84% of cases they initiate. Six in 10 likely voters support the Arbitration Fairness Act – including majorities of Democrats, Republicans and Independents.  Read Report...

Los Angeles Times: Fair Arbitration Now Coalition
Sue the company? Most contracts force consumers to forfeit that right

Mandatory arbitration clauses have become a routine part of the fine print in most financial, telecom and employment contracts, as well as numerous other customer agreements...Consumer advocates, sensing a shift in the political winds under President Obama, believe the time is right to challenge mandatory arbitration and have banded together to support legislation ending the practice..."We have no problem with arbitration," said David Arkush of the watchdog group Public Citizen... He was speaking on behalf of the Fair Arbitration Now Coalition, an organization of consumer and community groups. The coalition released poll results last week showing most people have no idea they're giving up a constitutional right when they sign contracts containing an arbitration clause. When details of mandatory arbitration are made clear, 59% of Americans say they oppose the practice and would back legislation requiring that arbitration be voluntary, the poll found...companies win nearly 84% of cases they initiate.  Read more...

Corporate Entities in this Country – ABOVE THE LAW
Jamie Leigh Jones Feature of Arbitration Fairness Day Press Conference
Washington DC - Good afternoon. I am standing before you to share with you a personal tragedy. I do this to bring awareness to legislation which is designed to ensure that no American will be deprived of their constitutionally guaranteed right to the fair administration of justice before a jury of their peers and judge, skilled in the law...When my lawyers filed suit, they were met with Halliburton’s response that ALL of my claims were to be decided in arbitration – because I had signed away my right to a jury trial at the age of 20, and without the advice of counsel, or any choice other than to be terminated. Thomas Jefferson said that “no man is above the law and no man below it, nor do we ask any man’s permission when we require him to obey it.” Here, with the misuse of arbitration, we have made corporate entities in this country – ABOVE THE LAW. See Related ABC Story - Victim: Gang-Rape Cover-Up by U.S., Halliburton/KBR (ABC News)            
Read more...

Associated Press: Jamie Leigh Jones Appeal
Appeal heard in rape case against Halliburton, KBR
A judge ruled last year that some of Jamie Leigh Jones' claims against Halliburton Co. and several former subsidiaries can be tried in open court, but the companies say she signed an agreement that requires all of her claims against the companies to be resolved privately through arbitration...The Associated Press usually does not identify people alleging sexual assault, but Jones' face and name have been broadcast in media reports and on her own Web site. She also described her allegations in testimony before a congressional subcommittee. Read more...

Arbitration Victim Speak Up
Stories of Americans Hurt by Forced Arbitration

Forced arbitration clauses – which are buried in the fine print of credit card terms, employee handbooks, health insurance plans, nursing home admissions forms and many other contracts – eliminate consumers’ and employees’ access to the courts and require that they submit their disputes to a private legal system that favors corporations. Forced arbitration clauses enable big business to undermine consumer protections, circumvent civil rights laws, bypass product safety and escape accountability for wrongdoing.  Read victims stories about individuals and small businesses that suffered severe hardship due to forced arbitration.
Read more...

Senator Russ Feingold & Cong. Hank Johnson Introduce Bill Arbitration Fairness Act 2009
Consumer Protection Measure Introduced In Senate

Sen Russ Feingold (D-Wisc.) introduced a bill Wednesday that would prevent companies from forcing consumers and employees into arbitration agreements. Arbitration clauses pop up in contracts for things as small as cell phones and as big as jobs. At a press conference on the Hill, victims of tragedies made worse by forced arbitration shared their stories. One of them, Jamie Leigh Jones, provided a statement saying she was gang-raped by her Halliburton subsidiary co-workers in Baghdad in 2005..."Unfortunately, my case is not an isolated incident," Jones said. Read more...

Janet Ahmad, President
HomeOwners for Better Building
http://www.hobb.org
210-494-6404

 
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