IS INTEREST-BASED BARGAINING REALLY NEW - Dispute Resolution Journal - Vol. 55, No. 1
The author has been a mediator with the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service (FMCS) since 1973. He holds a B.S. from the New York State School of Industrial and Labor Relations at Cornell University and a J.D. from the Catholic University of America. The views expressed in this article are his own and not reflective of the policy or views of the FMCS.
Originally from Dispute Resolution Journal
Interest-based bargaining is nothing more than “a reminder of some of the basic principles of sound and effective bargaining,” says Ira Lobel. Lobel challenges the use of the term “interest-based” when describing a bargaining process to resolve labor-related grievances. He contends that no matter the term used—traditional, adversarial, or interest-based—the important point is that the basic skills and expertise necessary to successfully resolve a dispute are present.
I have always been wary of false advertising—names that are used to sell things rather than to describe a product. “New and improved” labels on drugs make me curious, especially when all that is changed is a color or a size. Terms used to describe the size of a container—jumbo means large; extra-large means medium, large means small, etc.,—can drive any sane individual crazy. These phrases are used merely to sell products, rather than change or improve the product you want to sell.
In recent years, many labor relations experts have promoted interest-based bargaining1 as a new and improved method of bargaining. In reality, it is nothing new, but a rehash and a reminder of some basic principles of sound and effective bargaining. But by claiming bargaining is interest based versus adversarial or traditional, the words alone indicate a process that is a newer and better way of approaching bargaining. There is also the subtle inference that the traditional or adversarial bargaining process is obsolete. Using the phrase “interest based” has become simply a means of selling a product, and not necessarily changing techniques.