Grievance arbitration has been a success. It is considered, by labor and management alike, as the only viable means of resolving grievance disputes. The alternatives— resort to strikes or court suits—have been rejected for good reason. Arbitration is now embraced by better than 95 percent of all collective bargaining contracts in this country. The ever-increasing number of disputes being arbitrated each year suggests that the process, by and large, is meeting the parties' expectations. A particular decision may cause dismay. But the process itself, assuming the arbitrator acts swiftly with skill and good judgment, seems more secure than ever.
The criticisms derive mainly from the pressures being placed on the arbitration system. Those pressures come from the enormous volume of cases being processed, from the limited number of arbitrators who are both acceptable and available, and from the increased cost and delay that inevitably accompany such conditions. But these are not problems that arbitrators can solve. Only the parties have the power to make arbitration work better for them, either through changes in their arbitration machinery or through more effective use of their grievance procedures. The goals have always been clear—speed, economy, and justice. For a number of years, this was the credo of the American Arbitration Association.