Category Archives: Dispute Resolution

How Much Power Does a Labor Arbitrator Have? What the Latest Court Decisions Mean for Arbitrators, Employers, Unions and National Labor Policy?

Source: Lise Gelernter, Buffalo Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2012 – 005

From the abstract:
In 2009, in 14 Penn Plaza L.L.C. v. Pyett, the Supreme Court threw a curve at the collective bargaining world by holding (5-4) that unions could waive the rights of individual bargaining unit members to go to court to resolve employment-related statutory disputes and, instead, could require that such disputes be arbitrated. Pyett raised the specter of the Court taking the final step in merging the legal treatment of arbitration in the collective bargaining world with the treatment of non-labor arbitration, despite the clear points of tension between the basic public policy goal behind labor arbitration, which is to promote industrial peace, and the basic public policy goal behind all other kinds of contractual arbitration, which is to support and encourage private parties’ freedom to contract for alternative ways in which to resolve contractual disputes.

This paper clarifies what the legal trends really are and what they mean for the ‘big picture’ in arbitration as well as for labor arbitrators and the parties who appear before them. After reviewing the history of labor and non-labor arbitration and outlining and comparing the core principles of each type of arbitration, I trace how recent arbitration jurisprudence has crossed the historical divide between labor and commercial arbitration and explore the problems that this creates for labor arbitration as an institution. The trend towards the convergence of labor and non-labor arbitration is not unstoppable, however, and I highlight the ways in which the courts have continued to view arbitration under collective bargaining agreements and non-labor contracts as dichotomous systems with different rules. I also discuss how to deal with the reality of the new hybrid commercial/labor arbitrator that Pyett appears to contemplate and address the ways in which employers, employees and unions can help to retain the procedural and collective bargaining benefits of labor arbitration.

The Conflict Over Conflict Management

Source: David Lipsky and Ariel Avgar, Dispute Resolution Journal, May-October 2010
(subscription required)

Since the rise of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) over the last four decades, there has been another significant development, namely, an approach to dispute resolution called conflict management. There are two main “camps” opposed to conflict management systems. One has a progressive view of conflict and the other has a traditional view.

Other Models for Labor-Management Dispute Resolution: The Wisconsin Experiment

Source: Christine D. Ver Ploeg, William Mitchell Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2010-12, May 13, 2010

From the abstract:
Twenty-two years ago leaders from the Wisconsin Department of Labor Relations and leaders from the Wisconsin State Employees Union, AFSCME Council 24, agreed that they needed a more efficient way to deal with their backlog of grievances, many of which involved routine issues and did not require a precedential decision. To that end they mutually crafted two special arbitration procedures: the umpire arbitration process and the expedited arbitration process. In the intervening years the parties have resolved a large portion of their grievances using these special procedures, and today relatively few grievances are taken to conventional arbitration.

Given this extended and extensive track record, the parties were interested in now more closely examining their experience to determine how the advocates who have been in the trenches and use these special processes evaluate them and how they might be improved. To that end arbitrators prepared a ninety-question anonymous survey to which an advocate could respond with a quantifiable score and could also offer additional related thoughts.

All of the advocates – who among themselves had one to thirty-six years of labor relations experience – responded to this survey. Results revealed that both union and management advocates are highly satisfied with the umpire arbitration and expedited arbitration processes. Advocates suggested very few changes and none would support eliminating these special procedures as options.

In short, it is fair to say that the parties have realized their goal of resolving select grievances more efficiently while at the same time preserving fairness and effectiveness. These special arbitration procedures have worked well, and in today’s even more challenging economy other parties with substantial grievance backlogs could learn much from the Wisconsin experience.

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.

Privatizing Labor Law: Neutrality/Card Check Agreements and the Role of the Arbitrator

Source: Laura Cooper, Indiana Law Journal, Vol. 83, 2008

[N]eutrality/card check agreements are usually administered by private arbitrators empowered to interpret and apply them. In the last six to eight years, the American labor movement has significantly bypassed the legal structure Congress created for employees to express their desires regarding union representation and instead privatized labor law. In entering into neutrality/card check agreements, unions have focused on their goal of increasing union representation. However, such privatization has the secondary consequence of placing in the hands of private individuals serving as arbitrators some powers that had previously been the exclusive province of the NLRB, and other powers that even the NLRB never possessed. While scholarly, political, and administrative attention has understandably been focused on the broad public policy implications of neutrality/card check agreements, scant attention has been directed to what neutrality agreements require of arbitrators and whether these expectations are consistent with the institutional capacity *1590 and role of arbitrators. Do arbitrators actually have the legal authority and administrative capacity to assume this role? Can neutrality/card check agreements achieve their intended objectives if arbitrators cannot perform that role? What role can and should arbitrators play when unions join with employers in agreeing to privatize labor law?

Crowning the New King: The Statutory Arbitrator and the Demise of Judicial Review

Source: Michael H. LeRoy, Journal of Dispute Resolution, Vol. 29, No. 3, Spring 2009

From the abstract:
Judicial review of arbitration awards is highly deferential- but when does it become rubber stamping? Using original data, I find that federal courts vacated only 4.3 percent of 162 disputed awards. Nearly the same result was observed for a sub-sample of 44 employment discrimination awards under Title VII. By comparison, federal appeals courts in 2006 reversed 12.9 percent of 5,917 rulings made by civil court judges on the merits of legal claims.

Why are the rulings of Article III judges scrutinized more than the awards of citizen-arbitrators? What does this mean when companies can avoid Article III court rulings by requiring employees to arbitrate their claims? Judicial review of awards based on statutory claims is inadequate, and undermines the constitutional role of federal courts.

I point to two prominent junctures – in 1698, and again in 1925 – when lawmakers in England and the U.S. believed that court litigation hampered commerce. They enacted similar statutes to authorize courts to confirm disputed awards, unless these private rulings resulted from corruption or misconduct. This deference grew out of practical considerations. The parties had chosen the arbitrator, agreed to the private process, and bound themselves to an industry norm.

Courts deferred so heavily to awards because William III wanted these merchant tribunals to be autonomous. His law, the 1698 Arbitration Act, did not allow courts to vacate awards for fact finding or legal errors. Great deference in its reviewing standards reflected the king’s infallibility.

My textual research shows that the FAA’s reviewing standards descended from William III. I suggest that our law crowns today’s statutory arbitrator with the king’s mantle of infallibility. But this deference is too extreme for awards that rule on statutory claims. In Gilmer v. Johnson/Interstate Lane Corp., the Supreme Court ignored the commercial history of arbitration when it broadly approved a theory of forum substitution. Gilmer said that arbitrators may decide statutory claims, even if one disputant objects to the forum and wishes, instead, to be heard by a court. The result is that the ruling of the arbitrator is subject to a narrower standard for review than an Article III judge’s order. Epitomizing this regal deference, a contemporary court said: “The arbiter was chosen to be the Judge. That Judge has spoken. There it ends.” In textual and empirical analysis, I show that statutory arbitrations enjoy a presumption of royal infallibility. I conclude with two solutions for aligning the review of rulings by statutory arbitrators and Article III judges.

From Court Surrogate to Regulatory Tool: Re-Framing the Empirical Study of Employment Arbitration

Source: Mark C. Weidemaier, University of Michigan Journal of Law Reform, Forthcoming UNC Legal Studies Research Paper No. 1095111

From the abstract:
A growing body of empirical research explores the use of arbitration to resolve employment disputes, typically by comparing arbitration to litigation using relatively traditional outcome measures: who wins, how much, and how quickly. On the whole, this research suggests that employees fare reasonably well in arbitration. Yet there remain sizeable gaps in our knowledge. This Essay explores these gaps with two goals in mind.

The first and narrower goal is to explain why it remains exceedingly difficult to assess the relative fairness of arbitration and litigation. The outcome research does not account for a variety of “filtering” mechanisms that influence the relative merits of the cases adjudicated in each system. This Essay explores these filters, focusing on one in particular: most employee grievances are resolved within the workplace through relatively informal procedures. Workplace structures thus filter out most employee grievances before they reach arbitration. This fact has significant implications for efforts to interpret the arbitration outcome research. It also highlights the significance of the workplace as a locus of dispute resolution activity. Indeed, a growing body of research focuses directly on workplace compliance and grievance procedures.

Recognizing the significance of workplace dispute resolution leads to this Essay’s broader goal. That goal is to expose, and hopefully bridge, an artificial conceptual divide that separates the arbitration research from research into workplace dispute resolution. Many researchers view internal compliance and grievance procedures as a means of harnessing the employer’s own regulatory capacity. This conception drives a research agenda that explores the role of workplace structures in generating private norms and in implementing (or subverting) public norms like anti-discrimination. By contrast, the arbitration outcome research conceives of arbitration narrowly as a court surrogate, one that should ideally yield equivalent outcomes at lower cost. Although legitimate to a degree, this conception artificially separates arbitration from other employer-structured disputing procedures and yields an empirical agenda that leaves fundamental questions unanswered. This Essay closes by discussing two of these questions: First, do arbitrators play a meaningful regulatory role, either by shaping other arbitrators’ practices or by shaping the terms of arbitration contracts? Second, under what circumstances do arbitrators effectively generate and enforce norms?

Letters From the Field: Case Studies of Exemplary Collaborative Managers

Public Administration Review, December 2006, Vol. 66 supplement

These mini-case studies explore the practice of collaborative management within a variety of public sector settings, focusing on the meritorious roles played by public managers – how they performed well and why their actions mattered.

Articles include:
– Amy K. Donahue, “The Space Shuttle Columbia Recovery Operation: How Collaboration Enabled Disaster Response.”
– Mary Belefski, “Collaboration at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency: An Interview with Two Senior Managers.”
– Kurt Thurmaier, “High-Intensity Interlocal Collaboration in Three Iowa Cities
– Heather Getha-Taylor, “Preparing Leaders for High-Stakes Collaborative Action: Darrell Darnell and the Department of Homeland Security.”
– Kim Eagle and Philip Cowherd, “Collaborative Capital Planning in Charlotte-Mecklenburg County, North Carolina.”
– Tracy Yandle, “The Challenger Scallop Enhancement Company: Collaborative Management of a Natural Resource Based in the Private Sector.”
– Sharon Friedrichsen, “Collaborative Public Management in San Francisco.”
– Gerald Andrews Emison, “The EPA Bureaucrat Who Could.”
– David W. Sears and W. Robert Lovan. “Encouraging Collaboration in Rural America.”
– Brenda Bushouse, “West Virginia Collaboration for Creating Universal Prekindergarten.”
– Rob Alexander, “Kirk Emerson and the U.S. Institute for Environmental Conflict Resolution.”

Resolving Workplace Conflict: The Alternative Dispute Resolution Revolution and Some Lessons We Have Learned

Source: David B. Lipsky, Perspectives on Work, Summer 2006, Volume 10, no. 2

The U.S. industrial relations system has undergone a historic transformation over the past three decades. One of the most significant features of that transformation has been the dramatic rise of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) as a means of addressing workplace conflict. ADR can be defined as the use of arbitration, mediation, and other third-party techniques instead of litigation to resolve workplace disputes. In the view of some experts, the rapid diffusion of ADR in employment relations, especially in the non-union sector, has represented nothing less than a revolution in dispute resolution. The ADR revolution has spread to so many other types of disputes, including family, consumer, construction, and financial disputes. In many ways, transferring the resolution of workplace disputes from public to private forums constitutes the de facto privatization of the American system of justice.