Judicial Review Standards for Interest Arbitration Awards Under the Employee Free Choice Act

Source: Andrew Lee Younkins, University of San Francisco Law Review, Vol. 43 no. 2, Fall 2008

When interest arbitration is legally mandated, one or both parties may feel aggrieved by the result, and wish to challenge the terms of the collective bargaining agreement. A provision
of the Employee Free Choice Act (“EFCA”), a proposed act of Congress, would mandate interest arbitration of initial collective bargaining agreements when the union and the employer cannot agree on a contract within a prescribed period of time. The EFCA, however, does not provide courts guidance on how to review the collective bargaining agreements it would mandate.

On its own, the EFCA is inadequate to meet the needs of employers and unions who will be affected by its compulsory arbitration provisions. The EFCA’s first-contract compulsory arbitration provisions will lead unions to become reliant on an arbitrator to resolve their contract disputes, yet the EFCA does not specify a standard or scope for judicial review of interest arbitration awards. Because federal courts have not developed a body of law to address the review of labor union contracts, the EFCA should be amended to require that (1) courts conduct arbitrations in on-the-record hearings; (2) courts vary the level of deference accorded to interest arbitration awards, based on the arbitrator’s expertise; and (3) arbitrators craft awards according to a prescribed set of substantive standards.

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