Washington, D.C. – Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) today spoke on the Senate floor regarding today’s move to pass bipartisan legislation to eliminate forced arbitration for sexual harassment and assault. Senator Schumer also applauded yesterday’s announcement that appropriators have reached an agreement on a framework to move forward on a year-long appropriations package. Below are Senator Schumer’s remarks, which can also be viewed here:
It has been a busy, productive, and truly bipartisan week here in the United States Senate.
After days of fruitful cooperation from both sides, the Senate is now a few moments away from approving one of the most significant changes to employment law in years, eliminating for good the awful practice of forcing victims of sexual harassment and assault into arbitration.
An hour from now we will be able to say this: the House has acted, the Senate has acted, and we are sending bipartisan forced arbitration reform to the President’s desk.
It is a momentous reform bill, and one that’s painfully overdue. For decades, Arbitration clauses have been routinely tucked into the fine print of employment contracts. Today they impact about sixty million Americans, and many people may not even realize such clauses affect them until it is too late.
All of us have heard the searing testimonies of those who have faced harassment or abuse at work only to discover their jobs offered precious little in accountability.
Countless careers have been derailed or undone.
Worse still, countless lives have been forever damaged.
And for decades, workplace practices like mandatory arbitration have perpetuated cultures of abuse and unaccountability.
We can’t ignore a basic reality of these clauses: they deprive victims of sexual harassment and assault of their basic rights by mandating they seek remedy only behind closed doors of private arbitration, with no other alternative.
This is wrong, it is unfair, and it’s about time it changed.
And that’s exactly what we will accomplish through this bipartisan legislation. It will not only ensure that those who’ve suffered sexual harassment or assault have the option to go to court if they choose, it will also be retroactive: people locked into these clauses right now will benefit just as much as new employees will in the future. That's an important point that hasn't gotten enough attention. It will undo the pernicious effect of these clauses that already exist.
I want to thank my friend and fellow New Yorker, Senator Gillibrand, for spending years advocating for this legislation. This accomplishment wouldn’t be possible without her leadership and her commitment to working with the other side.
Likewise I want to thank Senator Graham and Senator Ernst for reaching across the aisle and working with us to get this bill done. Yesterday Senators Graham and Ernst met in my office, and we came to an agreement to move this forward, and we very much appreciate that.
It was truly a collaborative effort by the Senate, and thanks to everyone’s work, forced arbitration for sexual assault and harassment will soon be a thing of the past.
As I said in my very first speech as Majority Leader, Democrats will always be open to working with members of the other side of the aisle when the opportunity arises.
The differences between the parties are real and cannot be ignored. But we can neither ignore the genuine chances for progress when both parties agree to move forward together on certain topics.
Last year, it was precisely this Majority’s commitment to bipartisan cooperation that cleared the path for historic Hate Crimes Legislation. Together we also passed a historic jobs and supply chain bill, which we hope is enacted soon.
And together, Democrats and Republicans secured the first stand-alone infrastructure package in years.
This week has been a continuation of that commitment to working with the other side when possible. This legislation on forced arbitration is a prime example.
And yesterday, we saw another example: appropriators from both parties announced that they’ve reached a framework agreement for a year-long appropriations package.
This is a huge step forward for arriving at an omnibus; and its great news for our goal of avoiding a yearlong CR, which would have been painful and costly.
There is a lot of work left to do before we pass a government spending bill, but yesterday’s announcement shows appropriators are now on a very good path. We are driving forward towards an omnibus, and I am very, very hopeful and optimistic that we will get there.
In the meantime, the Senate will do the responsible thing by passing a temporary CR next week in order to give the appropriators enough time to put their funding packages together.