I maintain an extensive collection of resources to assist me in my practice, which nearly all consists of working to help consumers, elders, employees, and nonprofits. Rather than have these valuable resources sit idly, I make them available to nonprofit boards and executives in the Salem area. To check out my collection, go here, and search on items tagged with "nonprofits" to winnow down the collection to those helpful for nonprofit leaders.
Just when you think the corporate drive to avoid having to answer for wrongdoing can't get more insane or over the top
When I first read about this, I was certain that I was reading a sly parody from "The Onion" or some other satirical publication. But then I found that the jokers behind this are deadly serious about it. In other words, General Mills has decided to promote itself to General LeMay and bomb the Constitution and your rights as an American to little super-sugarsaturated bits.
General Mills has granted itself a license to break the law. The owner of grocery staples including Trix, Cheerios, Betty Crocker, and Pillsbury, has quietly updated its terms of service to include a forced arbitration clause that eliminates its customers’ rights.
This means if you get salmonella poisoning from your Cinnamon Toast Crunch, you will not be able to hold General Mills accountable in court, and if you are cut by Old El Paso salsa that contains chunks of glass, your access to justice is denied. And yes, these were real things that happened last year!
Forced arbitration clauses allow corporations like General Mills to kick customers out of court and funnel them into an un-American dispute mill that is rigged, secretive and final -- and that denies you ANY ability to appeal, no matter how abusive the process.
If General Mills is not accountable, their customers are not safe.
Take action now! Write to Congress to urge them to protect their constituents from the abusive practice of forced arbitration!
And because we aim to help consumers around here, here's a helpful list of products you will want to avoid if you value your Constitutional rights as an American:
Finally a story that might get people's attention to help explain how and why mandatory arbitration = abomination when used against consumers and employees
It's hard to get people to understand how they're being robbed and denied their rights when it happens without guns or violence.
But a lot of times, companies rip off customers and exploit their workers unfairly, and it's not until you try to do something about it that you find out that the company has built itself an "Accountability Shield" that does to the civil justice system what Kryptonite does to Superman -- allows the bad guys to escape the consequences of their wrongdoing, and leaves the good guys weakened or flat-out defeated.
Every story needs a hook to get and hold the reader's attention long enough for the message to be received. For a lot of guys, a story about hot young women being mistreated by their employer is a strong enough signal to get their attention, and then they can finally get the message. And, of course, young women, who are often mistreated horribly in the workplace, can understand that even the most superficially exciting jobs can really be terrible grinds -- made much worse by the arbitration clause that essentially lets the company get away with anything short of murder.
I just had a call from a very nice person who needs caregivers around-the-clock, 365 days a year. One of these caregivers recently stole money from from my friend. My friend said it happened about six weeks ago, and that the person was no longer serving as a caregiver, so she was just going to let it go.
I had to explain to her why it was so important that she call the police:
Because other people looking to hire caregivers are going to look at the home-care workers' registry and look at the results of the criminal background checks, and if she doesn't file a police report about the theft, this caregiver will appear to have both a lot of experience and no problems in her background.
My friend felt uncomfortable; the caregiver is young, and my friend doesn't see herself as vindictive. Basically, she does not want to get the other person in trouble.
But of course, it's not my friend who is responsible for the trouble — the thief did that. My friend needs to report to protect others from this person and ultimately to protect herself by making sure that the system for background checks is reliable and complete. Someone who will steal from a disabled person getting 24 hour care is not someone who should be able to find work as a caregiver for other vulnerable people.
So you're not being kind by overlooking abuse or thefts like this. Consider what you're doing to the person's next victim.
My friend was also concerned that, because it would be her word against the caregiver's, she would not be able to prove that the theft occurred. I made two points about that:
The situation is the same with nonprofits. Many times when nonprofits are ripped off, the tendency among the members as to keep it quiet and not make a big fuss about it. It's also very appealing for the board to say that they were partially at fault for allowing the thief to rip them off, and therefore they don't want the bad publicity to their organization etc. etc. The big problem with this logic is the same as in my friend's case: when crime victims don't report crimes, the criminals are allowed to find new victims and victimize them, because they have no reason to know about the person's past.
So, uncomfortable as it is, if someone rips you off, don't make it your job to help them cover it up. If someone abuses you or steals from you, whether you are an individual or as part of an organization, call the police. Let the police and the court system make the decisions on prosecution and any punishment that might occur if warranted.
Bottom line: don't help criminals victimize other people by failing to report past crimes.
UPDATE: A helpful assistant attorney general points out:
"Great points, John. You might also tell your friend and others that they can call the Medicaid Fraud Unit at the Oregon Department of Justice if the care occurs at home and the provider is paid by the State, or if the theft or financial exploitation occurred in a Medicaid-funded facility [note that nearly all nursing homes and assisted living facilities accept Medicaid funding - JMG] whether or not the victim is a Medicaid recipient."
Thanks, AAG! You can reach the Medicaid Fraud Unit (MFU) at 971-673-1971.
Historian shows how our "textualist" Supreme Court happily throws the Constitutional text overboard to serve corporate "citizens" and steal the 7th Amendment Right to Jury Trial from real citizens
By Paul Bland:
This post examines a recently published book by an extraordinary law professor, Imre Szalai, who has gone back through the papers of the three men who drafted and lobbied for and pushed the Federal Arbitration Act. In painstaking historical detail, reviewing all sorts of primary materials, he establishes convincingly that the FAA was never intended to (a) apply to employment contracts at all; or (b) apply to take-it-or-leave-it contracts. This book is an important development in the historical scholarship on the Act, and demonstrates conclusively that the FAA has been distorted and mis-shaped by the U.S. Supreme Court in recent decades. The Act now covers millions of people and transactions that it was never intended to address.
The advocates of forced arbitration are literally on the wrong side of history – the Court’s decisions fly in the face of what the authors and supporters of this statute had intended.
Senior Attorney, Public Justice
Of Counsel, Chavez & Gertler
On Twitter @PblandBland
Good story to remind you of something crucial. Perhaps even more important than your will are all the designations you make over time that pass intangible property (financial accounts most often) outside the will. You should have a day every year where you review these -- the first business day after New Years or your birthday or wedding ( or divorce) anniversary ... Just so that every year you actually eyeball the names of the people who are slated to get the assets in those accounts should you die. There are many horror stories of what happens to survivors of people who fail to do this.
Maybe the only thing I can think of that's worse than losing a house to foreclosure is squandering a lot of money first on phony foreclosure rescue scams: the scams run by people who say that they can review your loan documents and find you all these reasons that you'll be able to poke holes in the lender's foreclosure case. If you think you got a different loan than you were promised, or that your loan was not the same on paper as it was represented to you, or the lender did something shady at closing, consult an attorney. But first, please, remember, the HUD-Approved Housing Counselors are FREE. And there is no magic sauce that anyone else has that is better than what the HUD-approved counselors can offer you as far as finding resources to help you with the more usual problem, which is too much debt for the money at hand. So if someone approaches you and offers you "help" on your crushing debt or foreclosure issue, don't give them any money, and if they give you suggestions or ideas, run them past the HUD-approved folks to see what they think before you try any of them.
I just got a call from an Oregonian who has owned a home in a lovely part of Oregon for over 40 years, but the third refinance, from 2008, has turned out very badly for this person; monthly income under $600, monthly mortgage $1300. The only thing that could make this difficult situation worse, in my opinion, is wasting the few remaining dollars at hand on phony foreclosure rescue schemes (which also wastes the energy that should be used in preparing a transition to a more affordable situation, if the money needed to maintain the present home is not assured). Thus, the letter below.
Thanks for your call to discuss the problems you are having maintaining payments on your refinanced home. I’m very sorry to hear of your situation, and I certainly wish I had a good suggestion for you; however, you told me that you had already exhausted assistance from the hardest hit funds and that your monthly income is far less than the monthly payment on your loan.
People having trouble paying their mortgage or who maybe need to get mortgage loan modifications should see a HUD- certified housing counselor first!
While these folks are not lawyers, helping people hang onto their homes if they can is their job, so they are familiar with the programs for loan modification and their requirements.
And, because they are government-funded, they do not charge clients for their services. Click here to find one near where you live:
Pension Loans Drive Retirees Into More Debt - NYTimes.com
. . . But the veterans, among them Daryl Henry, retired Navy disbursing clerk, first class, in Laurel, Md., who received a $42,131 pension loan at a rate of 26.8 percent, have not received any relief.
Robert Bramson, a lawyer who represented Mr. Henry in the class-action lawsuit, said that pensioners too often failed to contemplate the long-term costs of the advances.
“It’s simply a terrible deal,” he said.
WILLIAM M. ACKER, JR., District Judge.