If an employer steals a group of employees’ wages, those employees are free to file a group-action lawsuit at the local courthouse to recover those wages. However, by contractual agreement, some employers require their employees to individually arbitrate their employment claims. These agreements, what this article refers to as compulsory group-action waivers, support the view that “the strong do as they can, while the weak suffer what they must.” Here, the “strong” employer requires the employee to sign away her right to join co-workers and publicly sue the employer. The waiver makes the employee “weak” through alienation –a concept refined and examined by sociologists, psychologists, theologians, and philosophers –by decreasing the employee’s power, meaning, community, and self-actualization in the workplace and society.
From the abstract:
Normally, cases can be settled on broad terms that release all related claims. Although there are added protections that must be satisfied when a settlement is proposed in the class action context (which are provided by insisting on judicial approval of the proposed deal), even then the class representatives and defendant can usually agree to compromise the class’s ability to later bring all transactionally-related claims. But how should the law deal with cases that involve multiple claims with different claim-vindication procedures? In this paper we consider the FLSA, which is one of the most important examples of such a law. For decades, courts have consistently held that workers aggrieved by an employer’s statutory violations may not use modern opt-out class action procedures to vindicate their rights. A frequently litigated, but unsettled question is whether a class action brought alleging state law wage and hour claims can be settled on terms that require absent class members to release both state and federal claims, even though the federal claims could not have been asserted through the class suit. We argue that this form of settlement is not permitted by the statutory text and that our construction is consistent with the legislative history.
From the abstract:
This entry for the International Encyclopedia of the Social & Behavioral Sciences, 2nd ed. defines and describes modern processes of dispute resolution beyond court adjudication, including negotiation, mediation, arbitration and a variety of new hybrid forms of dispute resolution (e.g. med-arb, summary jury trial, public policy consensus building) that are sued in both public and private disputes. The article reviews the history and theory behind these processes, outlining quantitative and qualitative reasons for their use and then reviews a variety of controversies association with their use, including the privatization of dispute resolution, difficulty in evaluating their effectiveness and power imbalances in their use. The aspirational qualities of process pluralism are contrasted to the realities of their use and cooptation in some contexts, such as when powerful private and public parties dictate the form that dispute resolution takes, without party consent.
From the abstract:
Two developments frame this discussion: the demise of negotiated contracts as the predicate to enforcing arbitration obligations under the Federal Arbitration Act and the reorientation of court-based procedures to assimilate judges’ activities to those of other dispute resolution providers. From 1925 until the mid-1980s, obligations to arbitrate rested on consent. Thereafter, the U.S. Supreme Court shifted course and enforced court and class action waivers mandated when consumers purchased goods and employees applied for jobs. To explain the legitimacy of precluding court access for federal and state claims, the Court developed new rationales — that arbitration had procedural advantages over adjudication, and that arbitration was an effective enforcement mechanism to “vindicate” public rights.
The result has been the mass production of arbitration clauses without a mass of arbitrations. Although hundreds of millions of consumers and employees are obliged to use arbitration as their remedy, almost none do so — rendering arbitration not a vindication but an unconstitutional evisceration of statutory and common law rights. The diffusion of disputes to a range of private, unknowable alternative adjudicators also violates the constitutional protections accorded to the public — endowed with the right to observe state-empowered decision makers as they impose binding outcomes on disputants. Closed processes preclude the public from assessing the qualities of what gains the force of law and debating what law ought to require. The cumulative effect of the Supreme Court’s jurisprudence on arbitration has been to produce an unconstitutional system that undermines both the legitimacy of arbitration and the functions of courts.
Source: Tom Barnes, Dispute Resolution Journal, Volume 68, No. 4, 2013
It is somewhat ironic that while all collective bargaining agreements (“CBAs”) have their genesis in bargaining history, the origins and evolution of a collective bargaining provision is not often offered evidence in an arbitration hearing. As an advocate for nearly 40 years, I seldom offered such testimony. That may emanate from the fact that 70% of my cases were discharge or discipline matters under just cause provisions and bargaining history is usually of little significance. This may be due to a variety of other factors, viz: the authors are not available to testify; the origins are forgotten by succeeding negotiators on both sides of the table; bargaining notes, much less minutes, were not kept or are indiscernible . . . the sum of which is that the collective history is lost. With that lost history, any chance of demonstrating the real intent of the parties or disabusing an arbitrator of what appears to be plain meaning of a CBA provision evaporates as well. This is not a law review article. These are observations from four decades of negotiating labor agreements for both management and labor. That was in the setting of where the “sausage was being made” and thus these are reflections not from the flight deck but the bilge deck. In that connection, fine points of evidence such as relevancy, admissibility, hearsay, attorney-client and work product privileges, and parol evidence, all relevant in the admission of bargaining history, are not the focus. Rather, the practical aspects of how CBAs are negotiated and how arbitrators may consider such recorded labor history, is the focal point.
From the abstract:
Conflict is endemic in workplace organizations. Some workplace conflict may coalesce into union organizing and collective bargaining; or it may ripen into litigation. At first blush, collective bargaining and litigation seem to represent nearly opposite approaches to workplace conflict. Yet they have more in common than first meets the eye. Both collective bargaining and litigation are fearsome to employers, and have generated a thriving industry of avoidance – “union avoidance,” “litigation avoidance” – to keep them at bay. Both serve simultaneously as a mechanism of conflict resolution and as a catalyst of conflict. The iconic statutes that launched both the collective bargaining system and modern employment litigation – the NLRA of 1935 and the Civil Rights Act of 1964 – were born amidst intense social conflict; and both aimed in part to quell that conflict by channeling it into more peaceful channels – specifically, by empowering employees and compelling employers to deal with them fairly through non-violent though still costly adversarial forms of conflict. For workplace conflict is not simply a social evil to be avoided; it is also a by-product of, and a means for, the pursuit of justice. Yet both the collective bargaining system and statutory employment rights are supposed to induce organizational actors to construct a more just state of affairs mainly through the threat of costly conflict, not its frequent occurrence.
This chapter’s exploration of parallels between litigation and collective bargaining as modes of workplace dispute resolution lays the foundation for advocating one more parallel: Employment rights, litigation, and regulation could follow a path pioneered by the labor movement in leveraging workplace disputes into pressure for more participatory structures of workplace governance. It argues that the forms of governance – regulated self-regulation and internal dispute resolution – that are beginning to take shape under the shadow of litigation and regulation could and should be molded into a system of “co-regulation” that would secure for workers some of what collective bargaining was meant to deliver: a form of participation through collective representation in the resolution of workplace disputes and in workplace governance.
Source: Elizabeth A. Hoffmann, International Journal of Self Help and Self Care, Vol. 6 no. 2, 2012
From the abstract:
This article provides a concise comparison of matched pairs of conventional and worker-owned co-operative organizations operating in three industries—coal mining, taxicab driving, and organic food distribution. Like self-help groups, worker co-operatives try to minimize hierarchy in order to maximize the power and dignity of the workers involved. Specifically, this article examines workplace dispute resolution, a key factor in the quality of work life, and the alternative of more egalitarian, self-managed workplaces. While we think of such workplaces as being a benefit of certain professional firms, all co-operative workplaces studied here involved mostly positions that required no college education. Nevertheless, members of these co-operatives worked together to create economically stable workplaces with the same or better wages than that of comparable organizations, yet also with a greater quality of work life.
From the abstract:
This paper comes from a February 2012 Symposium, “The Role of ADR Mechanisms in Public Sector Labor Disputes: What Is at Stake, Where We Can Improve & How We Can Learn from the Private Sector.” It discusses the history of an important form of alternative dispute resolution: the use of what is called “interest arbitration” to resolve bargaining impasses in public-sector labor relations. This process is used in many states as an alternative to strikes. While interest arbitration has been a crucial part of public-sector labor law and labor relations for decades, it has come under increased scrutiny recently. Indeed, in the wave of laws passed in 2011 restricting the rights of public-sector unions to bargain collectively, interest arbitration was repeatedly attacked, and in several states it was eliminated or restricted.
This paper gives a historical overview of the development of interest arbitration, discussing how and why it developed as it did. This development was neither inevitable nor “natural” in that many other western democracies generally allow public workers to strike. But only a few states in the U.S. allows any public workers to strike. Thus, the question is: why did U.S. law and policy develop the way it did? This paper traces the relevant history from 1919 through to the new, restrictive laws of 2011. It starts with the Boston Police strike of 1919 — a seminal event in the history of public-sector labor law, that had a profound and lasting impact on how U.S. policymakers felt about dispute resolution in public sector labor law. It then turns to the first public-sector labor law permitting collective bargaining — passed, ironically in view of recent events, in Wisconsin in 1959 — and describes how concerns about dispute resolution were central to debates over that law. The paper continues by explaining how interest arbitration in public-sector labor relations has evolved and how it has worked from the 1960s into the 21st century. Finally, the paper explores the very recent developments in this area in the laws of 2011.
Source: Paul J. Gollan, David Lewin, Industrial Relations: A Journal of Economy and Society, Vol. 52 supplement 1, 2012
From the abstract:
For many decades, employee representation and voice in the employment relationship were manifested mainly through unionism and collective bargaining, but that is no longer the case. Today most employees do not belong to unions, but they may be represented and exercise voice through a variety of other mechanisms and arrangements. This paper provides an overview of a special issue of Industrial Relations containing eight papers that analyze various types of non-union employee representation. These papers feature a wide variety of research designs as well as industry, company, and employee settings. Empirically, they draw upon data from the United States, the UK, Canada, and Australia. As a set, these papers provide the most comprehensive knowledge to date of employee representation in non-union firms, and also offer recommendations for future research to further enhance such knowledge.
– The Comparative Advantage of Non-Union Voice in Britain, 1980-2004 by Alex Bryson, Paul Willman, Rafael Gomez and Tobias Kretschmer
– Participation Versus Procedures in Non-Union Dispute Resolution by Alexander J. S. Colvin
– Where Informality Really Matters: Patterns of Employee Involvement and Participation (EIP) in a Non-Union Firm by Mick Marchington and Jane Suter
– The Effect of Gender on Awards in Employment Arbitration Cases: The Experience in the Securities Industry by David B. Lipsky, J. Ryan Lamare and Abhishek Gupta
– Does Non-Union Employee Representation Act as a Complement or Substitute to Union Voice? Evidence from Canada and the United States by Michele Campolieti, Rafael Gomez and Morley Gunderson
Source: William B. Gould IV, Dispute Resolution Journal, Vol. 66 no. 2, May-July 2011
Facing an aggressive union-organizing campaign at its U.S. subsidiary, a multi-national company implemented an unprecedented ADR program to address complaints that management violated the company’s corporate social responsibility policy and its commitment to the right of employees to associate with a union. The program, known as the Independent Monitor could be a model for other companies.