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Currently there is an ongoing strike (Moderation Strike: Stack Overflow, Inc. cannot consistently ignore, mistreat, and malign its volunteers) which has led to (as at the time of writing)

124 moderators, 20 former moderators & staff, and 1330 regular users

jointly signing an online petition, Dear Stack Overflow Inc., dated June 5, 2023.

In the not too distant future, mandatory arbitration kicks in; see the Terms of Service:

b. Mandatory Arbitration

YOU AGREE THAT WITH RESPECT TO ALL DISPUTES BETWEEN YOU AND STACK OVERFLOW ...YOU AND STACK OVERFLOW SHALL FIRST CONSULT WITH EACH OTHER TO ATTEMPT TO RESOLVE SUCH DISPUTE IN A MANNER SATISFACTORY TO BOTH PARTIES, AND THAT IF A RESOLUTION IS NOT REACHED WITHIN NINETY (90) DAYS, THEN THE DISPUTE SHALL BE REFERRED TO AND RESOLVED BY BINDING ARBITRATION UNDER JAMS, INC.’S RULES FOR ARBITRATION OF CONSUMER-RELATED DISPUTES ...

... YOU ARE GIVING UP YOUR RIGHT TO PARTICIPATE AS A CLASS REPRESENTATIVE OR CLASS MEMBER ON ANY CLASS CLAIM YOU MAY HAVE AGAINST US INCLUDING ANY RIGHT TO CLASS ARBITRATION OR ANY CONSOLIDATION OF INDIVIDUAL ARBITRATIONS ...

So if I'm reading this correctly, on or around the 3rd September 2023, all ~1500 people on strike separately (not as a class) enter into mandatory arbitration, assuming it is not resolved beforehand.

I asked about how much this service costs here: Who pays the fees to JAMS Inc. (US$1,750+) for mandatory arbitration?, and JAMS states...

With respect to the cost of the arbitration, when a consumer initiates arbitration against the company, the only fee required to be paid by the consumer is $250, which is approximately equivalent to current Court filing fees. All other costs must be borne by the company, including any remaining JAMS Case Management Fee and all professional fees for the arbitrator's services. When the company is the claiming party initiating an arbitration against the consumer, the company will be required to pay all costs associated with the arbitration.

I just want to make sure...

Question: Do basically all ~1500 people on strike need to separately enter into "mandatory arbitration" after 90 days?

I say "basically", because a few people would have opted out of mandatory arbitration.

I'm not a lawyer, but I remember hearing cases where mandatory arbitration was entered into en masse (ChatGPT says Google, Uber, Lyft, and Amazon all have cases) and because of clauses forbidding class action (like Stack Exchange's clause above), they had to legally settle these case by case, costing the respective company millions of dollars and distracting from relevant work.

The example I saw previously was DoorDash (Terell Abernathy, et al. vs. DoorDash Inc.):

Inturn, AAA’s Commercial Arbitration Rules require each individual to pay a filing fee of $300 and the responding company to pay a filing fee of $1,900. ...

The motion to compel arbitration is GRANTED as to the 5,010 petitioners who submitted declarations. DoorDash is ordered to immediately commence AAA arbitration with these petitioners. The motion is DENIED as to the 869 petitioners who submitted mere witness statements.

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  • 9
    "ChatGPT says Google, Uber, Lyft, and Amazon all have cases" *presses a healthy dose of X Jun 24, 2023 at 1:59
  • 14
    Re "ChatGPT says Google, Uber, Lyft, and Amazon all have cases": Did you check it? ChatGPT can't be trusted with anything factual (it often makes stuff up). Jun 24, 2023 at 8:39
  • 2
    I checked Google and Uber; I found cases but it was a bit complicated (involving sexual harassment), and I don't really have the qualifications to judge how relevant these are. I didn't want to continue down this rabbit hole. Jun 24, 2023 at 8:53
  • 3
    Your question ignores the fact that most of those users have likely opted-out of the binding arbitration. Jun 24, 2023 at 10:26
  • 2
    Seems arbitration matters if they want to sue, like in Monica's case. Jun 26, 2023 at 8:48

1 Answer 1

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on or around the 3rd September 2023, all ~1500 people on strike...enter into mandatory arbitration, assuming it is not resolved beforehand.

No. While the term "dispute" is not defined in the ToS, and many users would characterize this as a "dispute" in common parlance, it is highly unlikely to be considered a dispute in the relevant context. Binding arbitration is not a means of resolving disagreements or consumer complaints; it is a legal process that replaces a civil trial.

As it is, neither side in this "dispute" is claiming to have cause for legal action. Even if they were, they would have to start the 90 day clock by formally notifying the opposing side through appropriate channels (i.e., serving a demand letter); merely going "on strike" does not satisfy this burden.

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  • 13
    Yes. It's all about the terms of service. Simply not curating is not against the terms of service. Jun 24, 2023 at 6:08
  • 15
    Even if it did or they tried anyway, a significant amount of people would have various ways out, founded in various national or regional laws. Not all the 1500 signees are US-based, and many other countries have far stronger protection for individuals than the US does (which is a low bar, seeing as the US has none or nearly none in numerous sectors). Related for EU-based users. (Obligatory I'm not a lawyer, etc.)
    – Zoe
    Jun 24, 2023 at 9:46

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