After several months of back-and-forth debate and extensive negotiations S. 1999, the “SCRA Rights Protection Act of 2014,” was introduced last month by Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Jack Reed (D-RI). Simply put, this bipartisan bill would make forced arbitration clauses involving Servicemember Civil Relief Act (SCRA)-related protections unenforceable against our men and women in uniform and instead allow servicemembers to submit to arbitration only after a dispute has arisen and if the servicemember voluntarily elects arbitration as an alternative dispute resolution mechanism.
Equally important, the bill also preserves the rights of servicemembers to bring class actions for violations of SCRA. Signed into law in 2003, the stated purpose of the Servicemember Civil Relief Act was:
to provide for, strengthen, and expedite the national defense through the protection…of servicemembers…to enable such persons to devote their entire energy to the defense needs of the Nation.
SCRA affords certain rights and protections to servicemembers and covers everything from lease agreements, financial arrangements, mortgage interest rates, and automobile leases to life and health insurance policies. SCRA also provides for reduced interest on debts and protects servicemembers against default judgments, evictions, mortgage foreclosures and repossessions.
This is a small, but critical, step toward reversing the disastrous effects of recent Supreme Court decisions. It appears that this bill is moving forward with bi-partisan support. The legislation also has support from numerous and influential active military groups including: Military Officers Association of America, National Guard Association of the United States, National Military Families Association, Reserve Officers Association, Student Veterans of America, and The Service Members Law Center.
This is a tremendous step forward in the broader campaign to end forced arbitration in all consumer and employment disputes. But efforts must continue to build momentum and support for the bills introduced by Senator Al Franken (D-MN) and Congressman Hank Johnson (D-GA), S. 878 and H.R. 1844, the “Arbitration Fairness Act” (AFA). This legislation is currently up to 71 co-sponsors in the House and 23 co-sponsors in the Senate. In December, the bill was the subject of a constructive hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee where the disastrous consequences of forced arbitration were exposed and highlighted. It’s important to continue the efforts to ensure these bills don’t get derailed and will be allowed to move through Congress and become law.
Sources: Federal Relations Counsel, Public Affairs, and American Association for
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