Stephen Goldberg is a professor of law at Northwestern University School of Law in Chicago. He is a co-author (with William L. Ury and Professor Jeanne M. Brett) of Getting Disputes Resolved: Designing Systems to Cut the Costs of Conflict (Jossey-Bass, 1988; Program on Negotiation at Harvard Law School, 1993). He would like to acknowledge Professor Brett’s contribution to this article. She assisted and provided counsel in every phase of its development. She designed the interview schedule, advised on and conducted the data analysis, and edited many drafts. Professor Goldberg would also like to thank Melissa Cryder, who conducted the interviews and collected the data on which this article is based.
In 1980, four districts of the United Mine Workers of America and four coal companies in those districts agreed to participate in a grievance mediation experiment. Since then, unions and employers in other industries have used grievance mediation. It makes sense that having repeated experiences with grievance mediation could have long-term effects on the labor-management relationship. But what are they? Has grievance mediation enhanced the ability of grievants and employers to resolve grievances on their own, without the need of a mediator? Has it improved the labor-management relationship overall? If so,why has grievance mediation survived in some settings and perished in others? To answer these questions,we analyzed empirical data collected over the past 20 years, and interviewed both union and management representatives in order to obtain their views.The results of this study, which are set forth below, justify cautious optimism about the capacity of grievance mediation to achieve long-term benefits for labor and management.