Congress may help mariners

I want to focus on a legislative movement afoot that might benefit the mariner and, no, it’s not the Affordable Care Act.

The buoy we’re coming up on is the Arbitration Fairness Act. It would amend the Federal Arbitration Act to prevent employees and consumers from being forced to arbitrate disputes unless arbitration was agreed to “knowingly and voluntarily” after the dispute arose. The bill was introduced in May, and its ultimate outcome, much less its final form, is unknown. Still, it’s nice to see Congress make an effort to do something for the working stiff, huh?

You see, I believe the Supreme Court’s decision in last year’s AT&T litigation in which an arbitration term was upheld, sort of got under the skin of a lot of folks. Whether it was academically correct or not, the outcome, to these eyes, seemed to favor big business by sort of blessing the use of arbitration as a shield. I mean do you have time to arbitrate a $30 dispute or would you toss the towel in and let the company take the win? Well, that was the approximate amount in play for each claimant in this AT&T litigation and the Supreme Court basically said everyone had to arbitrate their own $30 claim and the claims couldn’t be aggregated. That gives big corporations a pretty big sneeze factor.

At any rate, I’m curious to see how this Arbitration Fairness Act floats and I’ll let you know whether it breaks ground or settles slowly into Washington, D.C.’s muck.

Who knows? Maybe if the guys on the radio dial started talking about the stuff that really mattered to America like corporate overreach, Congress would start fighting for what matters. Oh, one other thing. If Obamacare gets you or your pal so heated, why don’t other big government programs like the TSA or Quantitative Easing or … well, you get the idea.

Underway and making way.


About the author

John K. Fulweiler

John K. Fulweiler is a licensed mariner and experienced admiralty attorney. He represents individuals and companies throughout the East and Gulf Coasts and has recently taken command of his own maritime law firm. He enjoys navigating the choppy waters of the maritime law, but readily admits to missing life on the water. He can be reached at . His website is

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