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March 3, 2022 by Ian Campbell

Forcing Workers to Arbitrate Disputes Is Increasing Labor Strife

The National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) leaves no doubt about its purpose. Enacted in 1935, it was set against a backdrop of decades of intense and often violent labor strife. Recall the massacre of striking coal miners at Ludlow, Colorado (1914); the bloody Battle of Blair Mountain in West Virginia (1921), which pit miners against the militia; and the West Coast Longshoremen’s Strike (1934) over union representation, which revealed organized workers’ enormous power over the nation’s economy.

The NLRA was designed to minimize strife by requiring employers to recognize employees’ efforts to engage in “mutual aid and protection”; adjudicating conflict so as to avoid direct action; and, to quote from the act itself, by “encouraging practices fundamental to the friendly adjustment of industrial disputes … and by restoring equality of bargaining power between employers and employees.”

Employers, naturally, prefer to deal with their workers one on one. But workers have shown throughout history they will not abide by this unfair practice. They organize, they work together, and, when their employers refuse to deal with them all at once, they strike. Workers engaged in, and prospered from, collective action long before passage of the NLRA. The law merely sought to …

Feb. 22, 2022 by M. Isabelle Chaudry, Jamillah Bowman Williams
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Recently, Congress passed the Ending Forced Arbitration of Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment Act, which will block enforcement of arbitration requirements for workers alleging sexual harassment or assault. Arbitration is the process of handling disputes outside of the court system — forced arbitration prohibits workers from suing their employer altogether.

This is an important outcome for the #MeToo movement and has the potential to reach many workers and employment claims, depending on how broadly or narrowly it is interpreted.

In a fair and just country, corporations are held accountable in the courts if their irresponsible behavior harms people. However, like many policies, the communities most impacted by forced arbitration are historically marginalized groups. Indeed, forced arbitration has a disproportionate impact on low-income Americans and Black and brown women when they are the victims of discrimination. Their abuse goes beyond the …

Feb. 9, 2022 by M. Isabelle Chaudry
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UPDATE: On March 17, the House passed the FAIR Act (H.R. 963), sending it to the Senate for consideration. Read my brief statement urging the Senate to quickly pass this crucial bill.

UPDATE: On February 10, the Senate passed the Ending Forced Arbitration of Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment Act (H.R. 4445), sending it to President Joe Biden for his signature. Read my brief statement on the importance of this legislation.

A few years ago, Roschelle Powers took a routine trip to visit her mom, Roberta, at her nursing home in Birmingham, Alabama. When Roschelle opened the door, she found her mother vomiting, disoriented — and clutching a handful of pills. Roberta’s son, Larry, visited a few days later and found his mom alone and unresponsive. She died soon after – with 20 times the recommended dose of her diabetes medication in her blood.

The Powerses …

Aug. 2, 2021 by M. Isabelle Chaudry
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In February, Georgia Rep. Hank Johnson, chair of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property, and the Internet, reintroduced the FAIR Act. The legislation would protect workers and consumers by eliminating restrictive "forced arbitration" clauses in employment and consumer contracts. The bill would also allow consumers and workers to agree to arbitration after a dispute occurs if doing so is in their best interests. A companion measure has been introduced in the Senate.

Arbitration — a process where third parties resolve legal disputes out of court — is a standard precondition to most, if not all, nonunion employment and consumer contracts. It's considered "forced" because few consumers and workers are aware that they are agreeing to mandatory arbitration when they sign contracts. In most contracts, arbitration is imposed on a take-it-or-leave-it basis before any dispute even occurs; refusing to sign is rarely a realistic option because other sellers …

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CPR HOMEPAGE
More on CPR's Work & Scholars.
March 3, 2022

Forcing Workers to Arbitrate Disputes Is Increasing Labor Strife

Feb. 22, 2022

The Hill Op-Ed: Banning Workers from Suing Their Employer Hurts People of Color and Women Most

Feb. 9, 2022

Forcing People to Settle Disputes under Arbitration Harms Marginalized Groups Most

Aug. 2, 2021

To Protect Workers and Consumers, Congress Must End Forced Arbitration