Replace overbearing over-reach with reasoned oversight
Too much oversight vs. too little recourse for injustices
The government is often accused of being too big and too intrusive. The judicial system is a lengthy process. Litigation is costly for the aggrieved and out of reach for the poor . They are the ones most in need of recourse for grievances. Expensive trial lawyers, class action suits and union protections are out of reach for those who are most in need of their services and protections.
What if a system of Oversight Boards following the arbitration model could be established? They could provide outlets for the aggrieved, the intimidated, and the frustrated who only want to air their complaint, call out an injustice and change the dynamic? How might this look?
To better conceptualize this proposal, consider the following situations that happen to most people:
- Employee grievances could be brought before an independent board. That’s important if you have no union to protect you and no money to hire a labor relations lawyer.
- Employee suggestions for improved work performance and upgrading a stagnant or rotting work culture through anonymous channels might be accomplished thru independent arbitration boards.
- Student grievances and suggestions could follow same scenario.
- Citizen and neighbor grievances and suggestions, same scenario.
- Consumer grievances and suggestions, same scenario.
- Adopt the format of an Advisory Review Board modelled in response to incidents of police brutality and misconduct.
- Corporations and non-profits have boards of directors, most companies have a Human Relations Department. Police Departments have Internal Investigation Units, citizens have their elected officials and there’s always the Human Relations Commission/Civil Rights Department for those from protected classes (racial, ethnic, gender, etc.) seeking redress. So why propose OVERSIGHT WATCHDOGS and ARBITRATION opportunities. Because all too often “the fox is watching after the chicken coop” or “the fox just doesn’t care about your issue” or “the fox is too busy to deal with your complaint or your complaint does not match what the fox is supposed to keep track of”. I know I over did with the “fox analogy” but I hope it gets the point across.
- You are overcharged for health care and/or prescriptions
- You are denied services for health care and/or prescriptions
- You are denied benefits or services even though you appear to be eligible for them . Making matters worse, you observe ineligible persons obtaining those services. You continue to be a diligent worker bee while observing others feeding at the public trough.
- You work in a hostile environment that includes any (or all) poisons such as: sexism, racism, bullying, cronyism, financial irregularities (illegal or unethical), mismanagement, rampant gossip, or just plain chronic laziness and inefficiencies.
- You find yourself in situations where you want to follow the mantra “see something, say something” but you either have not outlet to do so or you fear reprisal for doing so. This proposal takes the “see something, say something” as step further to include “do something”.
- You experience a trend or pattern of behavior by persons, businesses or agencies that are either blatantly wrong or foreshadow harmful effects for the greater good. You want to do the right thing but you have no forum to express your concerns or your observations.
- You sense that you are not alone concerning these situations and observations but there is no opportunity to aggregate these experiences so there is no opportunity for strength in numbers and real change.
So what might be the solutions?
All too often the response is to pass more legislation, establish more programs, create rules and regulations and spend more money. Governmental responses tend to be a meat cleaver rather than a surgical laser strike at the source of problems. What if effective, impartial oversight could be applied whenever and wherever these problems crop up at their sources rather than wait until government overreach appears to be the only response?
How did I come to this proposal? My personal experiences and observations:
- I have worked in a variety of toxic work environments where the culture was rotten but the options for change were few. Consequently, job change was the only logical option.
- I have observed innumerable conversations involving complaints about the behaviors of specific persons followed by broad brush generalizations denigrating all persons of that particular background be it their race, culture, ethnicity, etc. Let’s have more targeting of the offenders rather than generalizing the masses.
- I have experienced waste and financial gouging in the health insurance industry (astronomical increase in both costs and ridiculously high deductible levels). I have been repeatedly told that smaller businesses and non-profits are too small to be self-insured so they don’t have sufficient size (critical mass) to command competitive health insurance rates. We can’t be alone in this boat so if we all started rowing together, might we overcome this falsehood.
- I have experienced innumerable conversations with persons from both the far left and far right political spectrum expressing outrage over a pet peeve and anger that they are not heard. Polarization and animosity will never be resolved as long as it persists and has no outlet. If a Community Level Arbitration infrastructure could be crafted, angst could be addressed on a micro level where there is a greater chance of agreeing on what’s right and wrong. We might avoid the macro level of polarized discourse where the trenches of our respective positions are dug too deep.
Why we need this, more thoughts on why this might work and how it might look
- Letters to the editor used to appear in the local newspaper. Now its hard to find a paper version of newspapers.
- Letters could be sent to the offending entity (business, government agency, organization, etc.) with the result nothing more than the polite, carefully crafted response letter informing you of their “sincere” desire to provide quality customer service and their “apology” for any disappointment you have experienced. End result is nothing. You have been politely disrespected and you have no idea of how many others have complained.
- Contact your local official. The higher up they are on the food chain, the less likely you will get a response or any sense of satisfaction. Also, you have no idea of how many others are complaining. Politics is all about power and at the end of the day expressions of complaint (even if there are a bunch of them) are nothing more than that if there are no consequences.
- Vent on the internet. Yelp, likes/dislikes, blogs all provide opportunities to sound off by you and fellow complainers. However, in the long run it often serves as nothing more than a sound chamber where you hear your own echoes.
- How many times have you been upset by something but you had no recourse to complain. You might have feared recrimination. You might have thought you were the only one bothered by what you experienced. You might have felt that even if you and others complained, nothing would result from it. So instead you ruminate and stew in your own juices of resentment till it boils over into a sense of apathy and fatalism. You start using phrases like “they’re all crooked” and “my vote doesn’t count” and you ultimately live by the mantra “life’s a bitch and then you die”. Without an outlet where you can be heard and have a sense of empowerment, you are on the path to tribalism and anarchy.
The devil’s in the details….
How the ARBITRATION Boards are established, how they function and what powers they have is critical to their success.
Participation should be voluntary to keep costs low and no compensation would present no opportunity for members to be beholden to any vested interests. They will only be effective if they are transparent, independent and unbiased.
Participants must include a healthy cross sample of society akin to the format of a jury. Depending upon what issue they are overseeing, some members of the oversight board should have expertise in the appropriate field (i.e, pharmacists concerning pharmaceuticals, criminal justice professionals concerning law enforcement matters, etc.). However, the “professionals” can not have an undue voice or a deciding vote.
Even if the Arbitration Board does not have binding authority, their very existence and recommendations might provide much needed transparency and a sense of empowerment which in the long run will encourage positive change.
Arbitration Boards as conduits to channel societies frustrations (especially among societies most frustrated), might actually re-engage the alienated, reduce polarization and even bring together members on the far left and far right together on irritations at the micro lever which we all share. Who knows, this might even reduce societies epidemic levels of loneliness because “birds of a feather will be able to flock together” (even if we are various species of birds at least we will begin flying in the same direction).