Labor Arbitration: Cutting Cost and Time Without Cutting Quality - Dispute Resolution Journal - Vol. 39, No. 3
John Kagel is a labor arbitrator in the firm at Kagel and Kagel in San Francisco, California. Kathy Kelly is, a labor arbitrator with Kagel
and Kagel and associate professor of law, McGeorge School of Law, Sacramento, California.
Patrick I. Szymanski is with the Division of Enforcement, National Labor Relations Board, in Washington, D.C.
Originally from Dispute Resolution Journal
Labor arbitration has long been criticized as too slow and costly. Most efforts at reform have been directed toward hearing procedures, such as eliminating transcripts or calling for bench awards. This article reviews two successful experiences with a different effort at reform: joint fact-finding of grievances. Under this system, the parties are forced to make constructive use of early steps in the grievance procedure by fully investigating the relevant facts. The result has been more settlements and more efficient presentation of cases that are arbitrated.
The success of a grievance and arbitration procedure depends on four factors: (1) the quality of the result (whether the outcome is based on the facts and whether it meets the parties' needs), (2) the integrity of the result (its ability to stand up to later challenges by participants or outsiders), (3) speed and accessibility (availability of fast remedies for both sides), and (4) economy (disposition of a case at a reasonable price).
Traditional grievance and arbitration systems have scored low marks in categories 3 and 4. Such systems have been criticized as too slow, expensive, and formalistic to resolve satisfactorily labor disputes. Many commentators have also suggested that the adjudicatory nature of the traditional arbitration process places the parties in the position of battling opponents and diminishes chances for a mutually satisfactory resolution serving all parties' legitimate interests. Some of these critics have expressed general pessimism about efforts to reform arbitration systems on the grounds that defects inherent in the adjudicatory nature of that process will render it deficient no matter how it is packaged.