April 23, 2018
Contact: Steve Smith, 510-326-4644 firstname.lastname@example.org
SACRAMENTO – The California State Assembly today issued a subpoena to a worker who was silenced by a non-disclosure agreement as part of a forced arbitration case, freeing her to tell her story to the Assembly Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, April 24th in support of AB 3080 (Gonzalez Fletcher). This is the first time the legislature has used its subpoena power since 2001 as part of the Enron investigation.
The worker, Tara Zoumer, was fired after speaking out against her company’s efforts to coerce her and her co-workers to sign a forced arbitration agreement. Millions of women and low-wage workers nationwide are forced to sign these agreements to get a job. Often, they are not informed that signing a forced arbitration agreement is tantamount to waiving all rights to go to court or a state agency for recourse if they are sexually harassed, have their wages stolen or suffer a host of other abuses. AB 3080 bans employers from forcing workers to sign an arbitration agreement or any waiver of rights as a condition of employment and makes it illegal for companies to retaliate against workers who refuse to waive their rights.
The California Labor Federation is a sponsor of AB 3080.
Statement from California Labor Federation Legislative Director Caitlin Vega:
“It speaks volumes that at a time of heightened concern over sexual harassment and other mistreatment in the workplace, it takes the extraordinary act of the state legislature issuing a subpoena simply to unmuzzle one woman just enough that she is able to tell her story in public.
“Forced arbitration is a secretive, rigged process that condemns women to silence and enables abusers to continue their behavior without consequence. The #MeToo movement, as powerful as it is in helping women speak out, ultimately can’t provide relief to millions of workers who are forced to waive their basic rights just to get a job. For women toiling in low-wage work, getting fired for speaking out isn’t an option and being thrust into a rigged arbitration system with no one at their side is impossibly daunting to overcome.
“AB 3080 ensures no woman will have to waive her rights just to make a living for her family. It will shatter the silence that threatens the progress of #MeToo and other movements that empower women and all workers. If the legislature takes combatting sexual harassment and workplace abuse seriously, it must lead in passing legislation to curb the detrimental practice of forced arbitration.”
The California Labor Federation is made up of more than 1,200 unions, representing 2.1 million union members in manufacturing, retail, construction, hospitality, public sector, health care, entertainment and other industries.