Corporate Accountability Now! - Rights & Democracy VT

Corporate Accountability Now!

Working families have won important victories on a range of workplace rights and consumer protection standards in the past five years.

Responding to organizing by working people, policymakers have enacted dramatic increases to the minimum wage, paid sick and family leave, equal pay guarantees, and protections against predatory payday and auto loans – delivering real benefits for our communities.

However, enforcement of these new standards remains a challenge. Traditionally, workers and consumers could file lawsuits to hold lawbreakers accountable. Most of us have lost the right to go to court, now that powerful corporations are burying forced arbitration provisions deep in the fine print of contracts.

Corporations and their political allies are denying more than 60 million people – half the American workforce – their right to challenge their employer in court.

These hidden clauses strip away our rights to utilize our public justice system to sue, to participate in a class action lawsuit, or to appeal, and completely stack the deck against employees and consumers. Companies use arbitration to hide wrongdoing: women who experience sexual harassment are often forced into arbitration, which silences them from speaking out.

This is why we need Corporate Accountability Now!

Corporate_Accountability_Now_logo-01.pngWith the federal government refusing to protect Americans from corporate abuse, we want our policymakers to ensure that public enforcement can hold corporate wrongdoers accountable. For example, by silencing whistleblowers who would file private lawsuits, forced arbitration leaves public agencies solely responsible for policing violations of labor laws. Strict federal preemption prohibits states from regulating arbitration clauses – but we can take action to increase Vermont's enforcement capacity.

Modeled on an ancient legal practice known as qui tam, and California’s successful Private Attorneys General Act (PAGA), we are calling on lawmakers to enact a law that can:
  • Authorize private citizens, especially employees, who have been harmed by unlawful practices to initiate a public enforcement action on behalf of the state. The state can then choose whether to intervene or let the whistleblowers manage the litigation on the state’s behalf.  
  • Expose company-wide violations and collect penalties on behalf of all affected consumers or workers.
  • Collect millions in civil penalties from lawbreakers. Most of the penalty revenue would go to the state, with a portion retained by the whistleblowers who brought the suit. California’s Department of Labor receives approximately $5 million in PAGA revenue each year.
  • Preserve access to courts. The public enforcement action is filed in the name of the state and all affected residents, as the state’s way of enforcing its laws. Because the lawsuit doesn’t arise from the contract between the company and a consumer or employee, courts have ruled that these claims can’t be forced into arbitration.

Your legislators need to hear from you so that they understand the need to hold corporations accountable - now!

Sign on to support & share your story! 

Who's signing

32 signatures

Will you sign?

  • signed 2018-03-11 22:59:06 -0400
  • signed 2018-03-11 22:00:46 -0400
  • signed 2018-03-11 18:02:59 -0400
    James Haslam
  • signed 2018-03-11 13:13:16 -0400
    Lodiza Lepore
  • signed 2018-03-11 12:35:14 -0400
  • signed 2018-03-09 18:41:26 -0500
    What percentage of employees (particularly women) can afford to take an employer to court? And what percentage of those could afford the cost to win? It’s time to get real.
  • signed 2018-03-09 16:19:55 -0500
    I was at threat of loosing my career and being dicredited because I didn’t have the financial means to defend myself nor the time or mental capacity. Then I made mysef believe it was more important to maintain my Gender Conforming rolls. Now is the time for others to know it happened to me too.
  • signed 2018-03-09 11:34:56 -0500
  • @RightsVT tweeted this page. 2018-03-09 11:34:40 -0500
    Sign the petition and share your story: We demand corporate accountability now!"
  • signed 2018-03-09 10:13:51 -0500
    Erin Stillson Wolf
  • signed 2018-03-09 08:35:36 -0500
  • signed 2018-03-08 23:17:49 -0500
  • signed 2018-03-08 23:05:03 -0500
  • posted about this on Facebook 2018-03-08 20:47:20 -0500
    Sign the petition: Forced Arbitration
  • @JohnBenoit88 tweeted link to this page. 2018-03-08 20:47:17 -0500
  • signed 2018-03-08 20:47:01 -0500
    What is Stalling Wrongful Injury Lawyers?

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    By Ralph Nader

    February 7, 2018

    Up against four decades of megacorporate erosion of wrongfully injured Americans’ access to our courts, trial lawyers are wondering what use is left of the Seventh Amendment, our constitutional right to trial by jury?

    Indentured lawmakers pass laws blocking or obstructing harmed individuals who are simply seeking fair compensation for their medical expenses, wage loss and suffering as a result of actions committed by their wrongdoers. Corporations, with their fine print consumer contracts, are eluding justice for some serious crimes by employing compulsory arbitration clauses, which preemptively force victims into closed, private arbitration (in lieu of trial by jury) and block the wrongfully injured from getting their day in open court.

    It’s unavoidable. Chances are you sign such clauses regularly without ever knowing it. Everywhere, lawsuits, jury trials and verdicts are diminishing in the midst of population growth and ever more invasive technologies, drugs, chemicals, and many other products—all with the very real potential to suffer from dangerous defects, and all bearing built-in immunities for the guilty parties, should these defects come to light. Indeed, the vast majority of fatalities and serious injuries from preventable causes in the health care industry, factories, mines, drillers and hurtful products never even see an attorney.

    Still the corporate lobbies, led by the insurance industry, keep pressing to block the courtroom door and avoid accepting responsibility for their injurious deeds.

    They built this system of justice, but collectively, they have not been up to defending and preserving it from the mounting counterattacks.

    The trial lawyers cannot match their adversaries in political contributions. However, there is one simple thing they could do. Should they deign to return the calls of consumer, environmental and labor groups wishing to forge alliances at the grass roots, such a union of minds could turn the tide for the trial lawyers who have long been on the defensive. Bear in mind, the law of wrongful injury (tort law) defends all the people regardless of political persuasion, race, gender or economic background. An unbeatable coalition could be assembled.

    For over fifty years, I’ve been fighting, as a volunteer, for more appropriate utilization of our civil justice system to further its goals of compensation for the wrongfully injured, public disclosure of hazards, consequences for crimes against innocent victims and the environment, and deterrence against culpable actors. This effort is part and parcel of consumer, environmental and worker safety movements. In fact, the dangers that prompted safety legislation and regulations were often first disclosed by personal injury lawsuits.

    Yet, with luminous exceptions, most major plaintiff law firms are not responding to the mobilization of these constituencies. They tend to their selected clients as attorneys but do not flex their muscles and resources as proactive lawyers by addressing the overall crisis that is the slow-motion destruction of civil justice.

    Their adversaries have established so-called “lawsuit abuse” groups in numerous states and activated their dealers, agents and professional societies to keep the siege on our Seventh Amendment rights proliferating with wildly inaccurate assertions and hyperbolic anecdotes.

    Inexplicably, these successful law firms will not protect the dwindling forest for the few trees they are nurturing. You call them for collaborative projects and their secretaries keep saying they are “in deposition” or are “on conference calls” that seem to occur perpetually.

    I suspect that they are just not interested enough, no matter their enormous wealth from contingent fees in such areas as the great tobacco, asbestos, drug, oil spill or motor vehicle class actions. They have not built collateral civic institutions to begin to match their opponents even though these civic groups would be speaking for tens of millions of families.

    In an open letter to plaintiff attorneys circulated in 2012, I described how the great law of torts is under assault and demands a multidimensional mobilization of the public. It was overwhelmingly ignored.

    On September 29, 2016, we organized the first ever national celebration of this pillar of private justice at Constitution Hall in Washington, D.C. Some of the region’s leading trial lawyers promised to bring people out and help with the expenses. They struck out.

    There was a time twenty-five to fifty years ago when trial lawyers recognized the necessity of community education. They offered seminars in property, consumer, personal injury, civil rights and contract law in a program called The People’s Law School. Others joined with the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health to share little known product and environmental hazards discovered in their litigation which they hoped would foster broader protections. They started, at my suggestion, a marvelous non-profit litigation group called Public Justice in 1982 that brings fundamental court cases unlikely to be brought by commercial attorneys.

    Presently, personal injury lawyers, except for the few rich ones, are not making big money. They are discouraged. Their own state trial lawyer associations report dwindling membership, smaller budgets and less engagement. Whole areas of practice are nearly disappearing, as in California with its draconian statutory caps and other restrictions on litigating serious medical malpractice injuries, which limit compensation to $250,000—regardless of the severity of the injury—for a lifetime of pain and suffering. (See my letter to Governor Jerry Brown.)

    But there is one smallish firm in California that shows their colleagues just what can be accomplished for the American people by combining logical vision with enabling resources for the common good.

    I’ll describe what this firm has done for America in next week’s column, and ask the question, what are many larger personal injury firms waiting for?
  • signed 2018-03-08 19:34:55 -0500
    Jill Neitlich
  • signed 2018-03-08 18:56:59 -0500
  • signed 2018-03-08 18:42:56 -0500
    My story of sexual assault in the workplace has left me with body dysmorphia and an estranged connection to my identity as “woman.”
  • posted about this on Facebook 2018-03-08 17:57:14 -0500
    Sign the petition: Forced Arbitration
  • signed 2018-03-08 17:56:56 -0500
  • signed 2018-03-08 17:31:23 -0500
  • signed 2018-03-08 17:08:06 -0500
  • signed 2018-03-08 17:06:10 -0500
  • signed 2018-03-08 17:00:32 -0500
  • signed 2018-03-08 16:48:27 -0500
  • signed 2018-03-08 16:39:06 -0500
  • posted about this on Facebook 2018-03-08 16:19:12 -0500
    Sign the petition: Forced Arbitration
  • posted about this on Facebook 2018-03-08 15:58:09 -0500
    Sign the petition: Forced Arbitration
  • @Majak_Dancer tweeted link to this page. 2018-03-08 15:58:06 -0500


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