Poll: Americans Oppose Forced Arbitration, Demand Corporations Be Held Accountable
Wide support exists across party lines for Arbitration Fairness Act; consumers, employees from around U.S. lobby lawmakers today
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. Just by
taking a job or buying a product or service, consumers and employees
are forced to give up their right to take their case to court if they
are harmed by a corporation.
The poll results bolster already heightened scrutiny by lawmakers of
credit cards, mortgages, and other common consumer and employee
contracts. The bipartisan Arbitration Fairness Act (H.R. 1020) was
introduced by Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) in the House of Representatives
and will be introduced in the Senate by Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.)
today. The measure will ensure that the decision to arbitrate is made
voluntarily and after a dispute has arisen, so corporations cannot
manipulate the arbitration system in their favor at the expense of
consumers. The Fairness in Nursing Home Arbitration Act (S. 512 / H.R.
1237), introduced by Sens. Mel Martinez (R-Fla.) and Herb Kohl (D-Wis.)
and Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-Calif.), would eliminate forced arbitration
clauses in nursing home contracts.
"The findings show clearly that Americans strongly oppose forced
arbitration, and they see the Arbitration Fairness Act as a remedy. Not
only is there real intensity to this view, but it traverses traditional
partisan divides," said Lake Research Partners President Celinda Lake.
"Forced arbitration clauses – which are buried in the fine print of
employment and consumer contracts – are another example of corporations
taking advantage of ordinary Americans. The public supports the
Arbitration Fairness Act because equal justice under the law is a core
The poll shows that:
- 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.
The results were unveiled today at a press conference in Washington,
D.C., 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
“The Arbitration Fairness Act does not seek to eliminate arbitration
and other forms of alternative dispute resolution agreed to voluntarily
after a dispute arises,” the groups wrote last month in a letter to
lawmakers. "Its sole aim is to end the unscrupulous business practice
of forcing consumers and employees into biased arbitrations by binding
them long before any disputes arise."
More than 50 consumers, employees and advocates lobbied lawmakers
today to pass the Arbitration Fairness Act. They came from Alabama,
California, Georgia, Iowa, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota,
New Hampshire, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia to
speak about how forced arbitration makes it nearly impossible to hold
companies accountable for wrongdoing.
"One of our indelible rights is the right of a jury trial," Johnson
said. "Guaranteed by the Constitution, this right has been gradually
ceded by citizens every day as they purchase a new cell phone, buy a
home, place a loved one in a nursing home, or accept a new job. Once
used as a tool for businesses to solve their disputes, arbitration
agreements have found their way into employment, consumer, franchise
and medical contracts."
Added Feingold, "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."
Members of Congress will hear from people like David Kurth, of
Burlington, Wis., whose father William died in 2005 due to severe
neglect of care while in a nursing home facility. When the Kurth family
tried to hold the nursing home corporation accountable in court, they
were told that another family member had signed a forced arbitration
clause. A judge agreed and said the case could not be heard in court.
"Nursing home corporations are using arbitration clauses as
liability shields to insulate them from their own wrongful conduct,"
said Kurth at today’s press conference.
The survey reached 800 adults nationwide, 18 years or older, who are
likely to vote in the 2010 elections. The overall margin of error is
+/-3.5%. The poll was commissioned by The Employee Rights Advocacy
Institute For Law & Policy and Public Citizen, and funded by The
Public Welfare Foundation. Pollsters Celinda Lake and Daniel Gotoff of
Lake Research Partners are also available to discuss the poll results.
Please see media contacts above to arrange any interviews.
For more information, visit www.FairArbitrationNow.org.
Ray De Lorenzi , American Association for Justice
202-965-3500 x749, firstname.lastname@example.org
Angela Bradbery, Public Citizen
Donna Lenhoff, The Employee Rights Advocacy Institute For Law & Policy