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Blumenthal Leads Introduction of Legislation Opening the Courthouse Doors to Consumers, Workers

[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – Today, U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) led a group of 39 senators in introducing 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.

“Forced arbitration is unfair and un-American – and during a global pandemic, it’s also unsafe. Workers forced into a rigged arbitration system have lost one of the most powerful tools they have to hold employers accountable for gambling with their safety: access to justice,” Blumenthal said. “But workers aren’t the only ones at risk – nearly every American been stripped of their basic right to justice, whether they know it or not. Nursing homes have forced arbitration agreements. Cell phone and cable contracts have forced arbitration agreements.”

“One of the fundamental principles of our American democracy is that everyone gets their day in court. Forced arbitration deprives Americans of that basic right. The Forced Arbitration Injustice Repeal Act simply rights that basic wrong.”

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: U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), U.S. Senator Edward J. Markey (D-MA), U.S. Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI), U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL), U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH), U.S. Senator Tina Smith (D-MN), U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-NM), U.S. Senator Maggie Hassan (D-NH), U.S. Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR), U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR), U.S. Senator Mazie Hirono (D-HI), U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA), U.S. Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA), U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ), U.S. Senator Jack Reed (D-RI), U.S. Senator Catherine Cortez-Masto (D-NV), U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), U.S. Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ), U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT), U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT), U.S. Senator Chris Coons (D-DE), U.S. Senator Gary Peters (D-MI), U.S. Senator Jackie Rosen (D-NV), U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA), U.S. Senator Diane Feinstein (D-CA), U.S. Senator Tom Carper (D-DE), U.S. Senator Michael Bennet (D-CO), U.S. Senator Alex Padilla (D-CA), U.S. Senator Ben Ray Luján (D-NM), U.S. Senator Raphael Warnock (D-GA), and U.S. Senator 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. During the last Congress, the FAIR Act was approved by the House of Representatives by a strong, bipartisan vote of 225-186.

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.