Kia Franklin

Obama Joins Fight Against Binding Mandatory Arbitration

Maybe, just maybe, there's hope that we'll have a pro-civil justice presidency after all. Well, at least on one plank.

There's been a groundbreaking development in the fight to protect people from the injustices created by pre-dispute binding mandatory arbitration clauses. Senator Obama is co-sponsoring a bill, the Servicemembers Access to Justice Act of 2008 (S.3432), which will protect military service members against being forced into arbitration in disputes with their employers.

Deepak Gupta at CL&P blogged about this earlier today, and points out that the bill is intended to improve enforcement of the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 (USERRA). USERRA makes it illegal to discriminate against an employee based on his or her military status and requires employers to hold the jobs of employees who are deployed while working for them. Obama on the bill (thanks to CL&P for providing it):

"Unfortunately, far too many of our brave men and women struggle to return to their daily jobs, or are denied the employment benefits they are owed. We must do everything we can to help our heroes when they return home, and I am proud to support this legislation."

A couple months back I looked at two very different outcomes to two very similar scenarios in which vets came back from duty only to find that they'd lost their jobs, in violation of USERRA. One employee got restitution in the courts, and the other was sent to arbitration. In that post I asked: If Congress has protected the military against the perils of binding mandatory arbitration in the context of predatory loans, shouldn’t it do the same in the context of employment claims? Especially when those claims relate directly to their ability to serve our country? What message are our courts sending about how much we appreciate their service and sacrifice?

Well it looks like Obama, Sen. Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, and Sen. Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts are working together to send a better message to our military. Kudos to them for embracing policies that will protect them against corporate abuse once they return home from serving our country.

Now, does this mean we can expect Obama to support the same protections when it comes to civilians? Will we have the opportunity to ask him?

Kia Franklin: Author Bio | Other Posts
Posted at 5:41 PM, Aug 26, 2008 in Arbitration | Civil Justice | Decision 2008 | Legislation | Mandatory Arbitration | Presidential Election | Pro-Civil Justice Reforms | Right to Access the Courts
Permalink | Email to Friend


Both candidates are left wing lawyers. Both are extreme supporters of the plaintiff bar. I expect them to win. I expect the plaintiff bar will get its entire wish list from the Obama administration and Justice Department, including foam at the mouth, redistributionist, anti-capitalism judges, up to the Supreme Court. Madison County will go coast to coast.

I am voting for Obama, out of perversity.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | August 28, 2008 6:15 AM

Come on, even though Obama supports this important piece of legislation it's more than a stretch to say electing him will mean electing the grantor of trial lawyers' wishes and dreams. Now, that's putting aside the fallacy of that characterization of civil justice issues as "trial lawyer" issues. No, it's not putting it aside, it's to point out that Obama even has bought into that anti-trial lawyer rhetoric and has even in the past has voted against ordinary peoples' best interests in terms of strengthening access to the courts. But he seems to "get it" when it comes to protecting veterans, and this is completely notable. I hope McCain will follow. He was a POW, after all.

Posted by: Kia | October 8, 2008 5:48 PM