The Quest for Finality in Airline Disputes: A Case for Med-Arb - Dispute Resolution Journal - Vol. 58, No. 4
Arnold Zack is a mediator and arbitrator of labor-management disputes, a teacher at the Labor and Worklife Program at Harvard Law School, and author of 12 books on dispute resolution and international labor issues. He is a member of the Visiting Committee on Human Resources at Harvard University, and he chairs the Executive Committee of the Alliance for Education in Dispute Resolution. Mr. Zack, a former president of the National Academy of Arbitrators, has been appointed to four Presidential Emergency Boards. He co-chaired the Due Process Task Force which produced the Due Process Protocol for the Mediation and Arbitration of Statutory Employment Disputes. He has received numerous awards, including the Distinguished Service Award for Labor Management Arbitration, the Whitney North Seymour Medal of the American Arbitration Association, and the Cushing Gavin Award of the Archdiocese of Boston.
Originally from Dispute Resolution Journal
The conventional wisdom has mediation as the prelude to arbitration of disputes arising out of labor-management contract negotiations. The author suggests a faster method, one that avoids using mediation to reach the next step. His proposal flips the sequence, using arbitration first, but putting the decision in a sealed envelope while the parties mediate for a set time period. If agreement is reached, the neutral tears up the envelope and the decision is never revealed. If the mediation fails, the envelope is opened and the arbitration award resolves the dispute.
Collective bargaining between unions and management over new or renewal contract terms, as practiced in the airline industry, is not working. The system designed in 1936 is rife with delays and lacks any assurance of reaching a final resolution of these disputes; moreover, the system fails to meet the current needs of society. Of the proposed alternatives to the present system, the concept that holds the most promise of providing a full hearing of the issues with an opportunity for the parties to reach agreement on their own is called “arb-med.” This article will discuss these alternatives and particularly the advantages of arb-med.
Dispute Resolution in the Airline Industry
Negotiation of labor-management disputes in the airline industry differs from the process of resolving similar disputes in other private industries. In other industries the parties usually agree to begin with direct negotiations, followed by mediation administered by the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service. Although the negotiations may be conducted while union members chant “no contract no work” or “settle or strike,” these negotiations tend to be expeditious and usually result in a prompt settlement. A recent study undertaken by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology on the duration of airline industry labor negotiations (MIT Study) shows that for the private sector under the jurisdiction of the National Labor Relations Board, 74% of contract disputes are settled during the first month of negotiations compared to 12% of disputes involving airline contracts.1 Occasionally, both negotiations and mediation fail to produce a resolution, leading the union to settle after a strike starts.