WASHINGTON – U.S. Congressman David N. Cicilline (D-RI) and U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) today introduced the Restoring Statutory Rights and Interests of the States Act, legislation that will prohibit the use of forced arbitration to avoid liability for the violation of statutory or constitutional rights.
“Forced arbitration is wrong. It stacks the deck against American workers. It empowers corporate special interests. That is outrageous. It needs to end. We need to empower people, not corporations,” said Cicilline, who serves as the top Democrat on the House Judiciary Subcommittee that exercises jurisdiction over the Federal Arbitration Act. “Enough is enough. The Restoring Statutory Rights and Interests of the States Act will ensure that no arbitration agreement overrides state, federal, or constitutional protections. When Congress or the states pass laws to establish rights, such as protections against workplace discrimination and harassment, they expect that these laws are actually enforceable in court. It’s long past time that we give working Americans their rights back.”
According to a congressionally-mandated study on forced arbitration, forced arbitration restricts access to relief for consumers, many of whom are unaware whether they have agreed to sign away their rights to bring a lawsuit against a corporate defendant.
In 2015, The New York Times published a groundbreaking investigative series, Beware the Fine Print, which exhaustively documented the dramatic rise of forced arbitration and its harmful effects on American workers and consumers.
“When Americans enter into agreements to obtain cell phone service, rent an apartment, or accept a new job, most are not made aware of the forced arbitration clauses that are tucked away in the legal fine print. But these dangerous provisions force us to abandon our Constitutional right to protect ourselves in court, and instead send hardworking Americans to face wealthy corporations behind closed-doors in private arbitration. This must change,” Leahy said.
The Restoring Statutory Rights and Interests of the States Act is co-sponsored by 13 Members of the U.S. House of Representatives, including Representatives John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI), Maxine Waters (D-CA), Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Henry C. “Hank” Johnson, Jr. (D-GA), Jamie Raskin (D-MD), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), Steve Cohen (D-TN), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), Ted W. Lieu (D-CA), Colleen Hanabusa (D-HI), Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR), Sean Patrick Maloney (D-NY), and Raul M. Grijalva (D-AZ).
The bill is supported by more than 20 public-interest groups, including: American Association for Justice; California Employment Lawyers Association; Center for Justice & Democracy; Center for Responsible Lending; Citizen Works; Committee to Support the Antitrust Laws; Consumer Action; Consumers Union; Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety; Homeowners Against Deficient Dwellings; Make the Road New York; Maryland Consumer Rights Coalition; National Association of Consumer Advocates; National Consumers League; National Consumer Law Center (on behalf of its low income clients); National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care; National Employment Lawyers Association; Public Citizen; The Impact Fund; The Interfaith Alliance of Colorado; and Workplace Fairness.