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Sen. Jackson seeks to restore workers’ rights, enforcement of Maine labor laws

— When Waterville delivery truck driver Bob Curtis and 40 of his co-workers decided to sue their employer, 3rd Party Logistics, for refusing to pay them for all of their time, they learned that was not legally possible. Back when they were first hired on, they had all signed individual arbitration waivers and forfeited their right to take the company to court.

“I needed to work,” Curtis told the legislature’s Labor Committee on Wednesday, “so I reluctantly had to sign the arbitration agreement.”

Instead of pursuing a class-action lawsuit, Curtis and the other drivers were informed that they could meet with the company’s appointed arbitrator. The forced arbitration process resembles a secret tribunal, often conducted by a single arbitrator hired by the employer. Curtis was told he could only meet individually — and he would have to fly to Phoenix, where the arbitrator is based, on his own dime.

Requiring workers like Curtis to sign these sorts of agreements is not an uncommon hiring practice. In fact, the Center for Popular Democracy estimates that across the country, by 2024, eight out of ten private-sector, non-union workers will be blocked from court by forced arbitration clauses.

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