No one can accurately predict how evolving trends will affect the future of labor arbitration. Fundamental changes in the economy and in work organization have led to a diminished influence for labor arbitration, says George Nicolau. There will, however, always be a need for dispute resolvers in the unionized sector, although the techniques of ADR may, themselves, change. Nicolau anticipates a broadly expanding role for grievance mediation. “There is also a distinct possibility that the parties to collective agreements may well ask labor arbitrators to resolve statutory issues....” These changes, says Nicolau, will require ADR professionals to take stock of themselves and their skills to determine how—and indeed, whether— they will prepare to fill these new roles.
As the American Arbitration Association reaches age 70 and the National Academy of Arbitrators nears 50, the future of labor arbitration and those who practice that profession is once again a matter of discussion and debate. Will the use of labor arbitration become less common or will the possible revitalization of the labor movement under the new leadership of the AFL-CIO lead to an increase in the number of cases filed? Will the character of labor arbitration change as employment law arbitration case filings increase? Those anxious about the future are asking these and a host of other questions. Because they are, I have been asked to survey the scene and offer some thoughts.