Halliburton Victim Twice Over

Angela Canterbury, advocacy director for Public Citizen's Congress Watch Division, submitted this post as a guest blogger for The Hill.

Today, Jamie Leigh Jones will appear before the House Judiciary Committee and tell how she was gang raped by her co-workers in Iraq while working for a Halliburton subsidiary called KBR. Afterwards, her assaulters confined her to a shipping container and warned that if she left Iraq for medical treatment, she'd be fired. That’s where she was found by agents sent by the U.S. embassy to rescue her -- after her father called their congressman, Representative Ted Poe (R-Texas).

Now, Jamie Leigh Jones has been victimized twice over. Because KBR/Halliburton requires employees to sign contracts containing a binding mandatory arbitration (BMA) in the fine print, Jones is being denied her constitutional right to bring her perpetrators before a jury and be heard.

But Jamie Leigh Jones will be heard by Congress today -- and then, lawmakers should waste no time in re-opening the doors of justice for Jones and the rest of us. It’s time to ban binding mandatory arbitration in employment and consumer contracts once and for all. There may be no other device being used today by Halliburton and other corporate giants that does more to systematically deny rights to workers and consumers.

Congress has begun to focus. Last Wednesday, the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution held a hearing on the Arbitration Fairness Act -- a bill that would ban most forms of binding mandatory arbitration introduced in the House by Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) and in the Senate by Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.).

Senator Brownback called it a “where the rubber meets the road hearing.