Nothing Fair About the "Fair Arbitration Act"
The Spin Masters are at it again. This time they're beating up on farmers.
US legislators are considering a bill that some in Congress have been trying to get passed for at least two years, but Big Business keeps blocking it. Co sponsored by Senators from Vermont, Wisconsin, South Dakota, Iowa, Nebraska and Illinois, where farmers matter big to the economy, you'd think that others would realize farmers could use some help and Senators from the farm states ought to know it.
The bill is called the Fair Contracts for Growers Act, S. 221, and it would provide for greater fairness in the arbitration process in to livestock and poultry contracts. What's so bad about that? The proposal seems fair. It would allow arbitration to be used resolve a dispute (as provided for under a livestock or poultry contract) only if, after the controversy arises, both parties consent in writing. It also would require the arbitrator to explain the facts and the law that made him or her decide the dispute the way they did.
So, if you're a very conservative congressman, getting lots of campaign donations from Big Business, what do you do to protect Big Business? Why, it's time for Amendments, of course!
"But we want it to sound like we're actually improving the bill," one says to the other. "No problem, let's call it the Fair Arbitration Act of 2007 'cause everyone likes something that's 'fair'," he answers back. And we're off to the spin doctors again...
Not to be outdone by reasonable efforts to protect the farmers, along comes Senators Kyl and Sessions who want to tack on amendments that would basically rip apart the original bill's intent to protect contract farmers from unfair (and often unnoticed) binding arbitration clauses.
Here's some of what the Give Me Back My Rights coalition have said about the anti-Fair Contracts bill's proposed amendments and why the so-called "Fair Arbitration Act" is really an unfair ripoff ...
- arbitration clauses are often buried in the fine print of a billing insert
- farmers, like consumers, have no real ability to bargain against Big Business interests
- legally required services (like car insurance and having a job) leave individuals with no choice about signing contracts on a take it or leave it basis
- powerful companies evade impartial scrutiny by courts
- consumer protection laws can be circumvented
- arbitrators are paid to make decisions by the people who favor arbitration and can unfairly become profit-driven in the very decisions they make
- the amendment's claimed procedureal "fix" (like getting a written explanation of the decision) end up having to be paid for by the requester at extra cost
Worse yet, Big Business actually has a bigger target in mind here ... they're going after all of your legal rights too!
This Big Business proposal would cover all kinds of arbitrations and would also basically create a "loser pays" change in the law for those who even dared go to court too. This is nothing short of a way to try to sneak in thru the back door some fundamental changes in our court system that they know we wouldn't let in thru the front door. Their changes would turn our court system upside down. Safeguards already exist in our court system to penalize abusive lawsuits but the court system wisely leaves it up to judges to decide whether or not a particular case has been abusive. Big Business wants would take that away from judges.
A friend of mine said he heard a judge telling a jury how important the right to trial by jury is for our system, how we declared our independence from England because they denied us the right to a jury trial, and how the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution both enshrined the right to a jury trial ... and how it made him wonder why people would give up such an important legal right and agree to a private secret "court" where no one would know what was going on. Well, folks, that's exactly what arbitration is all about.
Make no mistake about it. There's nothing at all fair about Big Business' so-called "Fair Arbitration Act". Write or email your congressional representative by clicking here and tell them, in plain english, "the Fair Arbitration Act is UNFAIR and I don't want it!"
Better yet, the Rural Advancement Foundation has created an easy-to-send letter that you can use. Please take the easy step of clicking the link below and (modify) and send the letter they've created:
Farmers are the backbone of this country and they need all of our help to fight back against Big Agribusiness. Some of the worst stories of arbitration abuse come from honest rural farmers who are just trying to make a living and raise their family.