Rep. Johnson’s Statement on Forced Arbitration in Judiciary Subcommittee
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Congressman Hank Johnson (GA-04) released the following statement at the Judiciary Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial, and Administrative Law this hearing: Justice Denied: Forced Arbitration and the Erosion of our Legal System. Rep. Johnson is the author of the FAIR Act: The Forced Arbitration Injustice Repeal Act, which would increase Americans’ rights to seek justice and accountability through the court system.
The House bill — H.R. 1423 — would eliminate forced arbitration clauses in employment, consumer, and civil rights cases, and would allow consumers and workers to agree to arbitration after a dispute occurs. The House bill has 201 cosponsors. Sen. Blumenthal (D-CT) introduced the companion bill in the Senate, which has 34 cosponsors.
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“Thank you Chairman (David) Cicilline (D-RI). The issue of forced pre-dispute arbitration is very important to me. And it’s a battle I’ve been fighting a long time. Twelve years ago, when I was a freshman in Congress, I first introduced a bill that would render pre-dispute arbitration clauses unenforceable in certain employment, consumer, and civil rights cases.
“You see, I believed that when one party is vastly more powerful than another, it just doesn’t make sense for the bigger guy to be able to force the smaller one into a situation that’s skewed in favor of the bigger entity. And that’s just what forced arbitration is—it stacks the deck in against the less powerful individuals in favor of large corporations. In so-called arbitration courts, the controlling party often gets to choose the arbitrator and the rules applied. The judge and the jury, if you will.
“Arbitration is meant to be a business-to-business contractual device. That’s what the legislature intended when it passed the Federal Arbitration Act ninety-four years ago. Today’s perversion of the arbitration tool has allowed employers to ignore protections for servicemembers provided under UCERRA, prevented consumers from joining together in a class, and hurt small business owners repeatedly.
“Today, I’m a little grayer, but just as committed to passing a bill that will even the litigation playing field. This congress, the Forced Arbitration Injustice Repeal Act has two-hundred-and-one cosponsors. As reporting about arbitration clauses becomes widespread, Americans are realizing how they’re being tricked, and they’re starting to fight back. My bill would help restore the right to the courthouse for Americans everywhere, and restore fairness to our legal system.
“I yield back.”