NELA Blows The Whistle On General Mills -- Efforts Responsible For Significant Progress In Movement To End Forced Arbitration
As many of you are aware, there has been a trifecta of bad corporate behavior toward employees and consumers. The Oakland Raiders’ motion to compel arbitration in the case Lacy T. v. Oakland Raiders provided a national platform to educate America’s workers on what is happening to their employment and civil rights as a result of forced arbitration. NELA led the charge on that as we worked with Lacy T.’s counsel, sending her attorneys’ and NELA’s statements to hundreds of major media outlets. This produced a flurry of social media activity and many excellent news articles, including the ones in the LA Times and ESPN online, with more expected as the case progresses.
Similar media stories have come out about the 44, 000 women employees of Sterling Jewelry who were systemically paid less than their male colleagues and who suffered severe sexual harassment. NELA member attorneys at Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll PLLC are pursuing this case, and the New York Times published a superb article on how Sterling Jewelry has attempted to shut down their claims and collective action through forced arbitration.
And now the BIG news: NELA blows the whistle on General Mills’ audacious attempt to force consumers to arbitrate. General Mills, in early April, quietly adopted a broad policy to require consumers to resolve any disputes with the company through forced arbitration on an individual basis. The language was written in a way that may have restricted this policy to those who signed up for promotional programs or used their websites or social media. The banner headline on the web page and other provisions, however, made it clear that General Mills intended to force arbitration on anyone who purchased their products, in a store or online.
I am very proud to have been the NELA Advocate/lawyer/mom who blew the whistle on General Mills. Thanks to an email they sent me as a Box Tops for Education participant, on Sunday, April 13, I found out about their new forced arbitration policy. While thousands of others received this email, I was probably the only one who read it, knew what it meant, and had the ability to do something about it. If I were not a member of the NELA and Fair Arbitration Now (FAN) coalition team, I would not have known how wrong this was and that we needed to do something about it.
This last week has been a whirlwind of activity. The New York Times broke the story on Wednesday, April 16 (thanks to a FAN coalition partner) and a national mainstream media and social media storm ensued as angry consumers blasted General Mills for robbing them of their legal rights and promising never to buy their products again. Our coalition partners produced excellent blogs and action alerts, while we were sharing witty comments on Facebook and Twitter, like “Federal Arbitration Act never intended to apply to babies eating Cheerios.” Within four days, at 10:00 p.m. on Saturday, April 19, General Mills announced that they were rescinding their new policy lamenting that they were “misunderstood” and they had no idea forcing consumers to give up their legal rights would be such a problem because “[m]any companies do the same.” The New York Times and MSNBC were among the many media outlets to report on this rapid about-face.
We must use this new national focus on forced arbitration in consumer matters to educate the public on what forced arbitration really means and to ramp up the pressure on companies and Congress to end this practice for consumers AND employees. Please join us. More information is posted on the National Employment Lawyers Association and Fair Arbitration Now Facebook pages.
We also need your help. NELA is the one of the four steering committee members of the Fair Arbitration Now coalition and the only one of the four leading the fight for employee rights. We can’t make progress or keep up with the groups fighting for consumer rights without a fully funded Legislative & Public Policy Program. We ask for your support and assistance in two ways:
Contribute to NELA’s Annual Gala which funds our Legislative & Public Policy, Judicial Nominations, and Amicus Programs. The deadline to make a pledge to be included in the GALA invitation is Friday, April 25. More information is posted here.
Join NELA’s Grassroots Advocacy Team. NELA members and their clients must develop relationships with members of Congress in order for us to make progress on legislation ensuring workers’ rights. Don’t worry – this is actually FUN and NELA members who are already Team members will be happy to share their experiences and NELA staff will help every step of the way, if asked. Please take a moment to respond to the e-invitation from NELA President David L. Lee to join the Team and to complete a brief questionnaire, which should take no more than five minutes. For more information, read NELA's Grassroots Advocacy Program announcement.
Thank you for your continued support. Let’s get this done!