For years folks who represent individuals vis-a-vis corporations have bewailed the evils of mandatory binding arbitration procedures being required by consumer and employment contracts.

Buried in the fine print of an employee handbook, health insurance plan, credit card billing insert, or franchise agreement, binding mandatory arbitration clauses eliminate a consumer’s access to the courts, and force them into a costly arbitration, a private legal system that favors corporations.

Now the corporations may begin to see the light, at least if they listen to former Georgian Newt Gingrich. According to the former Speaker of the U. S. House of Representatives, the proposed Employee Free Choice Act would subject employers to mandatory binding arbitration before government bureaucrats.

Not surprisingly, Newt finds a problem with the idea that once a worksite is unionized through the elimination of the secret ballot, if the employer and union don’t agree to terms in just over three months, a federally appointed arbitrator would impose wages, benefits, hours of work, and other terms and conditions of employment on both the employees and employer.

I’m all for mediation and arbitration to resolve conflicts out of court, so long as participation is voluntary.  But to arbitrarily deprive folks of the right to vindicate rights in court, if necessary, is a practice subject to extreme abuse.

By the way, for all the folks eagerly awaiting the time to buy a car, when I traded cars recently the guy at the dealership stuck an arbitration agreement in front of me along with all the other array of papers to sign. I just politely told him no on that one, and handed it back. Refusal to sign the arbitration agreement did not make one bit of difference in concluding the transaction on the agreed terms.


Ken Shigley is a trial attorney in Atlanta, Georgia who has been listed as a "Super Lawyer" (Atlanta Magazine), among the "Legal Elite" (Georgia Trend Magazine), and in the Bar Register of Preeminent Lawyers (Martindale), and is a Certified Civil Trial Advocate of the National Board of Trial Advocacy,. Mr. Shigley has extensive experience representing parties in trucking and bus accidents, products liability, catastrophic personal injury, wrongful death, brain injury, spinal cord injury and burn injury cases.  Currently he is Secretary of the 40,000 member State Bar of Georgia.