The NYT has been running a series of investigative reports on the spread of arbitration clauses that stipulate any conflict between an individual and the corporation or group be resolved outside court. Many times this means that instead of judges, plaintiffs have to plead their case to professional arbitrators who are hired to work repeatedly for the same companies. People often enter the agreements without knowing they have done so, because they may be hidden in something as banal as your purchase agreement for bamboo flooring. Many of the clauses seem to be notionally opt-in, but are in fact opt-out—it’s just that if you read through carefully and noticed you had a month to contest the terms and if it wasn’t the only job you could get to feed your family, you could, in theory, abstain from the agreement. It’s not just obvious conflicts of interest at work, though the Times does allude to how an arbitrator who awarded 1.7 million to a plaintiff was blacklisted. No, many of these clauses are religion-based, and you are forced to have civil disagreements judged in an explicitly religious “court,” in which Bible scripture can be quoted. In an extra FU move, a Christian school which lost in private arbitration decided they were Jesus-court in the streets, legal-system in the sheets, and tried to contest the ruling by filing a normal appeal. One poor sap is having his case against the Church of Scientology judged in…a Scientology-based religious court. Even though he’s on a list of “Suppressive Persons” and Scientologists are forbidden from having contact with him. Not sure how that’s going to work out. Someone must surely be willing to enter into an employment contract governed by a Muslim faith-based arbitrator, then suffer some harm, and then be forced to submit to religious arbitration of their case so that this BS can finally breathe life into the poorly-constructed scarecrow known as Sharia law? The law was enacted as a way to deter class-action lawsuits, and there are plenty of lawyers in the comments at the NYT defending the contracts that mandate arbitration on this basis. In what is a final indignity, this ruling (that such clauses in contracts) were constitutional came down under the tenure of Chief Justice Roberts, even though it seems as if he argued for the position in lower courts before joining the bench? Real labor and civil rights are being ceded to corporations, and judges have said “the first amendment made me do it” even in cases where they grant there has been serious injustice done.
ETA: I think this can best be summed up as companies thinking that if they cross their fingers behind them they can call “backsies” on all existing labor and product liability laws.