As part of Alliance for Justice’s ongoing campaign to end forced arbitration in consumer and employment contracts, we’ve worked with a host of grassroots organizers across the country. Students, community members, academics, and attorneys have reached thousands by screening AFJ’s short documentary, Lost in the Fine Print. Long-time friend of AFJ Patti Gorman planned one such screening as part of Conversations on Social Justice Series at Seattle Central College.
We asked Gorman to talk about her experience organizing a screening of Lost in the Fine Print. Responses have been edited for space and clarity.
What interested you about the issue of forced arbitration?
I was totally unaware of it and appalled when I found out about it. How can we be forced to sign away rights that are guaranteed by law? This is a true social justice issue and another indicator of how corporations unduly influence government and our daily lives.
Had those who attended the screening heard of forced arbitration clauses before? Most had not, I believe, probably because they are young students and because many are international students.
Why did you feel students at Seattle Central College needed to see this film? Why did you take on the project of organizing a screening yourself?
The college’s student and staff population is diverse and activist. I just knew this topic would interest them … I took on the organizing because I am an organizer and it comes pretty easily and because I had wonderful support from our librarians, who sponsor these noon time programs.
In addition, I had looked over the online materials created by AFJ, which are excellent, and received lots of support from [AFJ Klagsbrun Fellow] Erik Lampmann. I was a bit nervous at one point about being knowledgeable enough. But once I read the online materials, including links to more detailed court case info, and when I knew I would have a local attorney presenting with me (arranged by Erik), I knew it would be a piece of cake, which it was.
After watching Lost in the Fine Print, how do you hope others will take action to fight forced arbitration?
We need to put pressure on our elected officials to uphold our constitutional rights; hold the Supreme Court accountable, if we can, for upholding the Constitution and not overstepping its bounds into the other branches of government; keep raising hell about this issue, through class actions, when possible; and VOTE!!! I also think that if enough people struck out and initialed the contract clauses that infringe upon their rights when signing contracts, companies would finally get the message that people aren’t going to stand for their outrageous behavior. Of course, I hope many more people will use resources such as Lost in the Fine Print to educate others.
What would you say to others thinking about screening Lost in the Fine Print on their campuses or in their communities?
The whole process from preparation to implementation was fun, intellectually stimulating and very satisfying.
How did you first get involved with Alliance for Justice? What interested you about AFJ’s approach to social change?
I first heard about it from Nan Aron, a friend and former classmate (since 6th grade!). I have always been an activist for social justice. I find AFJ’s approach to helping non-profits be better at what they do [through the Bolder Advocacy initiative]… a compelling strategy—micro to macro. And now, when I see what our Supreme Court is doing that chips away at our Constitutional rights, I believe more than ever that the courts are where we need to put our attention. AFJ works hard and smart.
The librarians of Seattle Central College have graciously uploaded video of the event to their website.
If you would like to organize a screening on your campus or in your community, please contact Erik Lampmann at [email protected] or by phone at 202.464.7388.