Elaine Gale Wrong is an assistant professor in the Department of Management, Baruch College, City University of New York. She expresses her thanks to Stanley Hauptman for his careful reading of the manuscript.
This article examines arbitrators' decisions when plant seniority instead of unit seniority has been used by companies to rectify the effects of past discriminatory employment policies. This usually occurs when the company has been made party to a consent decree or has instituted an affirmative action plan under pressure. The question then arises as to whether arbitrators are supporting companies' affirmative action efforts.
By encouraging companies to offer plant rather than unit or department seniority, government agencies have sought to remedy the effects of past discrimination on minorities and women. These groups have generally been locked into low-status, unskilled, poorly paid positions. Plant seniority enables workers to bid on positions that require some skill, and the seniority they have obtained by length of service allows them to compete with workers who have only department or unit seniority.