The President’s new rule requires companies that sell $1 million worth of stuff to the federal government to let their employees’ cases go before a judge. Believe it or not, this tiny technical point could have giant repercussions. Here’s why: Judges, politicians and a rabidly well organized big business lobby have been closing routes to corporate accountability for a generation. An intensely effective strategy has been to padlock the courthouse door for customers and employees who have a complaint. See, in a lot of cases, people have real complaints but they can’t afford the legal fees to fight about it. When the legal fees are worth it, lawyers may take the case for free and share in the award if they win. But, if the amount is too small, no lawyer can afford to take the case. So, what the big companies have done is say to employees and customers that they can only fight battles in front of an arbitrator – some dude appointed to sit in a board room and give their opinion – and only one at a time. Lawyers who may otherwise take the case can’t, because no single case presents the leverage or the potential upside to actually fight the battle.  Here, President Obama told all federal contractors selling more than $1 million to the government that they can no longer force employees into arbitration. Finally, someone is saying that arbitration is a poor substitute for a day in court, thus opening back up the portal of accountability. Read more.

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