TorteDeForm

Kia Franklin

WSJ Readers Preach on Arbitration, Trash Op Ed

I just wanted to alert everyone to an awesome example of public education/advocacy in the Wall Street Journal's letter to the editor page. Readers set the record straight on arbitration in response to an extremely biased and misinformed article which feebly attempts to discredit Public Citizen's arbitration study, and which claims that people who are against mandatory arbitration are against consumer choice.

Umm.... what part of "mandatory binding" sounds like people have a choice? Sheesh. Obviously people who oppose forcing consumers into arbitration and shutting them out of court (and totally distorting the meaning of the FAA) are the ones defending consumer choice here. Banning binding mandatory arbitration only removes the coercion from arbitration--consumers are still free to opt in to the arbitration process when that forum looks like the best way to go.

But that's just me talking from the Amen Corner. Check out the letters to the editor themselves.

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***UPDATE (NOV 16th)***

I'm a sucker for legitimate requests from TD readers. Y'all want it, y'all got it. There were 4 letters and I personally liked 3, so I'll give a taste of those. To read the 4th, you'll have to fill out the four page free subscription thing on wsj.com.

My fave letter:

The editorial "Party at Ralph's" (Review & Outlook, Nov. 7) dramatically misreads the purpose of the arbitration bills now before Congress. They are not seeking to line the coffers of plaintiff attorneys; what they are trying to do is to give employees and consumers a choice.

Unrepresented employees do not "voluntarily" agree to a pre-dispute arbitration system; they either agree or they don't have a job. The same is true for consumers; they either agree or they don't have telephone service. Thus, to suggest that such arbitration agreements have been "voluntarily accepted by consenting adults" is simply not so.

Knowing this, the sponsors of these bills simply seek to ban mandatory, pre-dispute, condition-of-employment or condition-of-service arbitration. This does not mean that arbitration will disappear. What it means is that when a dispute arises an employee or a consumer will be able to choose between arbitration or the courts. If the system offered by the employer or the service company is fair, the likelihood, given arbitration's swiftness and lower costs, is that this will be the chosen alternative. If, however, the offered arbitration procedure is unfair, if the employee or the consumer has no say in choosing the arbitrator, or the arbitrator is not given the same authority or remedial power of a judge, or if the system, as many now are, is otherwise tilted in favor of the offering party, then the choice will be the judicial system.

George Nicolau,
New York

And from the other two letters:

Cindy Schnackel, National Secretary of Homeowners Against Deficient Dwellings (HADD) said: "Litigation is certainly no picnic for consumers, (despite persistent and unsubstantiated myths from tort reform proponents), but retaining the right to sue, and the fact it's a public record, is important leverage that no consumer should ever give up."

Rosemary Shahan, President of Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety, said: "Americans should not have to waive their Seventh Amendment right to a jury in order to enter a nursing home, receive medical care, accept a job or buy a home... For corporations, imposing pre-dispute, binding mandatory arbitration is profitable. But for consumers, it is a pernicious business, and one that should be outlawed."

Kia Franklin: Author Bio | Other Posts
Posted at 9:06 AM, Nov 15, 2007 in
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Comments

Please don't link to inaccessible pages--reprint the contents

Posted by: K | November 15, 2007 6:25 PM

I'll try to remember to ID when I'm linking to a subscriber-only page so that you know. You can google it and it might come up, but there are copyright issues with just reprinting the whole thing. That's weird though, I thought WSJ was working on being open to the public online.

Thanks for the feedback.

Posted by: Kia | November 16, 2007 12:22 PM

Here's an idea: under fair use, pick out a couple of the better letters and reproduce, perhaps with a count of letters in total, so we can get the feel of the responses, and Murdoch won't tromp on you.

I'd love to hear the responses myself, but won't fill out a four page 'free account' subscription.

(Regardless, thank you)

Posted by: Shelley | November 16, 2007 1:36 PM

The vote is in... I've updated the post with excerpts from the letters. Enjoy!

Posted by: Kia | November 16, 2007 1:58 PM

Sorry for typos, I meant to write:

Thank you!! You're right, excellent comment.

At least the WSJ did print reader opinion. I wrote an opinion about the op-ed piece by a NAF executive at Forbes, and it disappeared.

We keep plugging away...

(I hope I caught this one to edit before it duplicates. If it does, apologies.)

Posted by: Shelley | November 16, 2007 6:14 PM

Consumers cringe at holiday foreclsoures


The “Lemon Lady,” Houston grandmother Jordan Fogal, testifies colorfully against Texas homebuilder mandatory binding arbitration provisions to a congressional subcommittee this morning in Washington:

The first night in our new home, my husband decided to try out his new Jacuzzi tub on the third floor. When he pulled the plug, one hundred gallons of water crashed through our dining room ceiling. . . .

Well, this was not one overlooked plumbing connection, as my husband so desperately wanted to believe. It was a preview of coming attractions. Rainwater, from outside, sprayed us at the kitchen table. – The windows were installed upside down (our builder finally admitted this after three years). Our floors buckled and black spider-webs of mold crawled up our walls; the smell grew worse; then shower wall fell out and little puffballs grew out of the carpet. All the while, we had begged our builder to please fix our house.

We had the mold tested by an accredited laboratory, and they said they had never seen toxic readings that high in an inhabited dwelling.

The story of Fogal’s Hyde Park Crescent home was detailed in Mother Jones magazine two years ago; she also plays a part in this Houston Press report about the lucky owner of another Tremont Homes/Jorge Casimiro opus.

Written Testimony Submitted by Jordan Fogal To The Subcommittee on Commercial and Administrative Law: “Mandatory Binding Arbitration Agreements: Are They Fair For Consumers?” [U.S. House Committee on the Judiciary, via Bay Area Houston]
Home Sour Home [Mother Jones]
Ownership Wrongs [Houston Press]
Photo: Brewster McCloud

Posted by: Jordan Fogal | November 20, 2007 12:20 PM

Letters to editors can be very refreshing and a great barometer as to what the public really thinks. A few years ago I doubt so many people would come out against mandatory arbitration, as the tort reform propaganda was still widely believed, and arbitration was hardly understood at all. Now, because of the widespread abuse of arbitration clauses, it's become known. Also, more people have found out first hand what a bunch of BS tort reform was. Once the American people realize how corporate America has pulled the wool over their eyes and stripped them of their rights, they will NOT be happy and they will not treat those who got us in this position kindly. Maybe this is what it takes to wake people up out of their apathy.

Posted by: Cindy | November 21, 2007 12:01 PM

The link to Jordan's story can be found here. Thanks, Lemon Lady!

Posted by: Kia | November 21, 2007 2:49 PM

Cindy: absolutely. Unfortunately we have this tendency not to do much about things that are very unfair/troubling but which we think will not have a direct impact on our lives. That's what it seems like, at least. But this issue is something that affects everyone, we just don't realize it until it's too late! Thanks for the comments.

And thanks, Lemon Lady! The link to Jordan's story can be found here.

Posted by: Kia | November 21, 2007 2:52 PM