First Contract Arbitration: Issues and Design

TitleFirst Contract Arbitration: Issues and Design
Publication TypeWeb Article
Year of Publication2009
AuthorsZack, A. M.
DescriptionPosted on Labor and Employment Relations Association's blog
Last Update Date3/13/2009
PublisherLabor and Employment Relations Association
Keywordsarbitration, collective bargaining, Employee Free Choice Act, mediation, workplace disputes

[Excerpt] The proposed Employee Free Choice Act calls for mediation and arbitration of first contracts if the parties do not reach a negotiated agreement within 90 days. By so ensuring an initial contract, the framers of the bill hope to successfully establish the beginnings of collective bargaining institutions and relationships in newly unionized workplaces. Although the bill draws on the experiences and practices of interest arbitration that have developed over many decades, as currently drafted, the bill does not spell out the particular design features of an arbitration system nor clarify how arbitration would relate to mediation, strikes, or lockouts. Addressing these issues and several others will help to show how the processes envisioned by this bill should operate. Such details could be made explicit either as part of the final bill or in the rules prepared by the agency (or agencies) Congress assigns to administer and enforce the law. In addition, many of these issues could be dealt with by agreement of the parties themselves, as they face the possibility of using the statutory arbitration system.

This paper lays out some of the issues that should be considered in this design process, drawing on years of experience and evidence with interest arbitration, mediation, and other features of dispute resolution in both the private and public sector settings. The paper seeks to show how many features of traditional arbitration and mediation practice would prove particularly well-suited to the context of first contract disputes envisioned by the proposed Act.