Clearing the way for the real squeaker 60-40 Senate vote on health care at 1 a.m. this morning, was another key weekend Senate vote – the 2010 Defense Appropriations bill – which passed Saturday night by a less squeaky margin 88-10. The bill kept in tact Senator Al Franken’s amendment, which prohibits the Defense Department during this appropriations year, from contracting with companies that prohibit rape victims from accessing the courts. It will now be sent to the White House where President Obama is expected to sign it into law. (It already passed the House.)
In an op-ed published in today’s Minneapolis Star Tribune, Franken writes passionately about the company’s policy of denying such victims the right to bring lawsuits against those responsible, forcing them into mandatory binding arbitration.
No corporation -- no matter how powerful, how well-connected, how seemingly impenetrable -- should be permitted to rob its workers of their rights.
But that's exactly what happens when someone signs up to work for companies like KBR. Most people don't realize it when they're signing a stack of employment papers, but they're agreeing to give up their right to have their day in court.
In arbitration, there is no public record of the proceedings, no transparency and no accountability. It's the employer that typically pays for -- and in some cases, even selects -- the arbitrator. That's why in rape cases, the outcome of the binding arbitration has stipulated that the victim remain silent. There is no way for the next 20-year-old woman who signs up to work for KBR to hear about what happened to [rape victim] Jamie Leigh Jones….
Hopefully, this represents another nail in the coffin for these involuntary, unfair schemes.