While mediator-arbitrators possess the persuasion of ultimate power, their record as mediators under the Wisconsin law providing for final offer interest arbitration of municipal employee disputes is not particularly impressive. Only about 50 percent of the 703 disputes handled by mediator-arbitrators were mediated in the five-year period since the passage of the law in 1978.
In 1983, however, six of the more experienced mediator-arbitrators reported a mediation success rate of more than 70 percent. The reasons why they were unable to resolve some disputes are discussed, along with suggestions they provided for raising the likelihood of settlement through mediation.
Mediation of interest disputes of all Wisconsin local government employees, except police and firefighters, is a very stylized process mandated by statute. Before attempting to analyze how arbitrators mediate disputes over the terms of new agreements, it is therefore necessary to describe the institutional framework within which they attempt to mediate.