Companies in the United States are using contracts to trap workers in jobs that they hate, creating a new form of indentured servitude. Also, health insurance companies are gouging consumers while taking millions of dollars from the federal government each year. Mike Papantonio & Farron Cousins discuss more.


*This transcript was generated by a third-party transcription software company, so please excuse any typos.

Mike Papantonio:             Companies in the United States are using contracts to trap workers in jobs that they hate, creating a new form of indentured servitude. I’ve got Farron Cousins from Ring of Fire with me to talk about that and a lot of other things. You know, this is, this of course, this takes us back to the, the, the indentured servants that we’re used to seeing in farming, immigrants that come in. They have the company store, you have to buy your food here, and then at the end of the month they don’t have any money or else they, in this situation, it’s a little more sophisticated, isn’t it?

Farron Cousins:                  Yeah, it is. What employers are doing right now in order to trap people in jobs that either aren’t paying well or jobs that they just simply don’t like, is they’re saying, okay, if you don’t work here for X number of years and you leave, you have to repay us thousands and thousands of dollars for your so-called training to even work this job. And this is happening across industries. I mean, we’re talking about, pet groomers. There’s actually a class action lawsuit about that.

Mike Papantonio:             Pet, PetSmart is being sued.

Farron Cousins:                  Yeah. Truck drivers, nurses, all kinds of service workers in general.

Mike Papantonio:             Yeah.

Farron Cousins:                  It’s terrifying for these people.

Mike Papantonio:             Well, they call it specialty training. They say, you know, you can’t go anywhere and not get this kind of training where it’s not gonna cost money. So if you’re gonna cost us money and you don’t stay here more than 24 months, you owe us that money back. And it’s, it’s a lot more beyond that. I mean, you’ve got, you’ve got, where there’s advances, pay advances, and they say, well, we’re gonna give you an advanced paycheck. And that advanced paycheck is something that they never catch up with. It’s impossible to catch up with. So this value of training debt, that’s generally what it’s called. And right now, my, my take on it is the courts have, they have enforced some of them. But I think you’ve also got, you’ve got something that you have the unconscionability doctrine. A judge can look at and say, yeah, I see this is a contract, but I think it’s unconscionable. And they’ve got a lot of leeway to say, I’m not gonna allow this. I think that’s the way this is gonna go, to tell you truth.

Farron Cousins:                  Hopefully. And what’s really ironic, you know, disgustingly ironic about this program is that it’s called the Training Repayment Agreement Provision, which the acronym of that is TRAP. It’s literally called a TRAP that they’re putting these workers into to force them to pay back this training. And a lot of times, you know, this is something the courts have to take into consideration too, these employees are straight up told, we offer the free training. So they’re told it is free. There is no cost for this. So that, that could come into play as well.

Mike Papantonio:             The idea is we’re gonna train you into something that has, it’s gonna have crossover value. You can go to this company, you can go to that company. But the word that they do use is come to work with us and we’re gonna take you through a course that’s going to gonna give you value.

Farron Cousins:                  Yeah.

Mike Papantonio:             You’re gonna be able to use, to use this everywhere. Well, it’s just the opposite. I mean, it’s, there’s no really truth to it. First of all, there’s no special accreditation. They’re not getting a special license. You know, you’re not a specialized license groomer at PetSmart and that’s going to translate to big money somewhere else. It’s a scam. It’s just another scam and the courts have a way to do something about it. Like I say, if you have something that’s so unconscionable that it looks like slave peonage, what they call peonage, then they can do something about it.

Mike Papantonio:             Health insurance companies are gouging consumers while taking millions of dollars from the federal government every year. All right. This was supposed to be a program, ACA, right? The purpose of the ACA was to make health insurance more affordable. So the government starts pouring money. Here, take, take, take billions of dollars. Take billions of dollars. And oh, by the way, in addition to the billions of dollars, we’re gonna give you some subsidies too. It wasn’t just the billions of dollars they put in. They, they said, we’re also going to give you subsidies. What did the corporate, what did the corporate freaks do with that?

Farron Cousins:                  They raised the prices on everybody else buying health insurance. And we’re talking about $800 million that is about to be given to these insurance companies. That’s not even including the billions they’ve already gotten.

Mike Papantonio:             Oh, they’ve already, they already have billions.

Farron Cousins:                  So there’s a plan right now saying, we’re gonna give you another $800 million.

Mike Papantonio:             Mm-hmm.

Farron Cousins:                  In addition to your subsidies, in addition to your tax breaks, in addition to all the special loopholes. All you gotta do is keep providing health insurance for low income Americans.

Mike Papantonio:             Truthfully, it was a good idea. It was a great idea until corporate sociopaths got involved with it. What’s your prediction when we give them 800, 800 more million dollars? What are they gonna do with it?

Farron Cousins:                  They’re, they’re gonna continue to raise prices on us because they can. There’s no controls in any of this.

Mike Papantonio:             Yeah, yeah.

Farron Cousins:                  And, and, and look, these companies, we could be spending $800 million or $80 billion on providing health insurance for everybody in this country. But instead we’re taking that money and we’re just giving it to private insurance that continues to screw us over.

Mike Papantonio:             Mm-hmm.

Farron Cousins:                  We keep being told Medicare for All is too expensive. No, this is too expensive to continue.

Mike Papantonio:             Doesn’t the, doesn’t somebody sit ’em down in a room and say, here’s the deal. We have the right to regulate you and we will regulate you. Right now as high as 40%, 40% of all the profit these people are making is coming from the US government, taxpayers. And all we asked in return was, you make this available for people who can’t afford health insurance. But again, you get the sociopath corporate involved and there are no rules. And so somebody has to say, yeah, there are. They have to walk into a room and say, here are the new rules. I’m the new sheriff and here’s the new regulations.

Farron Cousins:                  But people have to understand too, okay, you get your paycheck, you see that your health insurance comes out of it. You’re also paying your tax for Medicare.

Mike Papantonio:             Right.

Farron Cousins:                  So you’re paying for other people’s insurance there. And then as you said, 40% of the insurance company’s profit is coming from tax dollars. So you’re paying for three different kinds of health insurance.

Mike Papantonio:             Right, right.

Farron Cousins:                  Why can’t we just put it towards universal healthcare? Free up the system, get these corporate price gougers outta here for good and, and be happy like the rest of the world.

Mike Papantonio:             Was I wrong that Biden promised to create a public health insurance option?

Farron Cousins:                  He was wishy-washy on it. It was back and forth.

Mike Papantonio:             Did he ever make the promise?

Farron Cousins:                  I, I don’t know if he ever actually said I am or if he was against it. I know we had, you know, Bernie and Warren.

Mike Papantonio:             Yeah. Oh, Bernie was very strong on it.

Farron Cousins:                  That, that were all for it.

Mike Papantonio:             And so was Warren. Warren said, yeah, this is what we need to do. All right, well.

Farron Cousins:                  And we’re left with this mess.

Mike Papantonio is an American attorney and television and radio talk show host. He is past president of The National Trial Lawyers, the most prestigious trial lawyer association in America; and is one of the few living attorneys inducted into the Trial Lawyer Hall of Fame. He hosts the international television show "America's Lawyer"; and co-hosts Ring of Fire Radio, a nationally syndicated weekly radio program, with Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and Sam Seder.