On October 6, 2009, in a 68-30 vote, the Senate passed an amendment proposed by Senator Al Franken (D-MN) which would alter the Senate Defense Appropriations bill to prevent defense contractors who imposed mandatory arbitration clauses on employees for employment disputes from receiving federal government contracts. This was an important step in the right direction for employees everywhere, and we applaud the success of Senator Franken’s amendment.
The fight is not over though. The bill is now moving to the joint Senate-House Conference Committee. The list of likely conferees is provided below, and while no Senators or Representatives from Connecticut are on this list, we urge you to contact Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) or Representative Norman Dicks (D-WA), and make clear that the Franken Amendment must survive the committee. Both Congressmen have voiced strong support for fair practices in arbitration when employees are involved.
One story has raised the profile of this very important issue. In 2005, Jamie Leigh Jones was working in Iraq as an administrative assistant for KBR, an engineering and construction company. Ms. Jones was drugged and gang-raped on July 28, 2005 by several fellow KBR employees. On May 16, 2007, Jones filed a civil law suit against KBR in federal court. KBR argued that Jones had agreed in her employment contract to submit to binding arbitration rather than bringing any employment-related claims to court. Ms. Jones has spent over two years fighting to secure her day in court to try her ex-employer for the injustice that was done to her. The Franken Amendment is intended to ensure that stories like this do not happen again.
Click here to see Senator Franken and Jamie Leigh Jones making it clear what is at stake if this amendment does not survive the Conference Committee.