Contract Interpretation - Chapter 8 - Fundamentals of Labor Arbitration
Rocco M. Scanza and Jay E. Grenig both serve on the American Arbitration Association's labor panel.
Rocco M. Scanza is an attorney, arbitrator and mediator of labor and employment disputes. He is also the executive director of Cornell University's Scheinman Institute on Conflict Resolution, where he teaches courses in workplace alternative dispute resolution. Mr. Scanza was formerly a national vice president at the American Arbitration Association. He graduated from Queens College in New York City and Loyola Law School of Los Angeles. He lives and works in Ithaca, N.Y.
Jay E. Grenig is a professor of law at Marquette University Law School. He has served as an arbitrator or mediator in over 2,000 labor and employment disputes. A member of the National Academy of Arbitrators, the American Law Institute, and the Order of the Coif, Mr. Grenig is also a fellow of the College of Labor and Employment Lawyers. He formerly chaired the Labor and Employment Law Section of the Association of American Law Schools and served as a consultant to the National Commission on Employment Policy. He has written or co-written numerous books and articles.
Originally from Fundamentals of Labor Arbitration
The interpretive process involves giving meaning to the words in the collective bargaining agreement. Rules of contract interpretation are applied during this process to determine the intent of the parties. Since the parties’ negotiators chose the words in the agreement to express their meaning, the words are the most important single factor in ascertaining the parties’ intent. When experienced negotiators drafted a collective bargaining agreement, the presumption is that they understood what they were doing.
8:02 PRIMARY RULES OF INTERPRETATION
There are several primary rules of contract interpretation. They are as follows.
Plain Meaning Rule. It is frequently said that when the language in the parties’ agreement is “plain” or “clear and unambiguous,” effect must be given to the literal meaning of that language, without consulting other indicia of intent or meaning. This rule is sometimes referred to as the “plain meaning rule.” An arbitrator’s failure to issue an award that follows contract language found to be clear and unambiguous may result in the award being overturned (i.e., “vacated”).
The plain meaning rule has been criticized on the ground that the meaning of words varies with the circumstances and therefore should be interpreted in the context in which they are used, including the contractual context and the labor relations context.
Ordinary and Popular Meaning. Another primary rule of construction says that words are generally given their ordinary and popular meaning in the absence of any indication that they were used in a different sense or that the parties intended some special meaning. However, technical terms should be given their technical meaning, unless the context or usage indicates a different meaning. In determining the ordinary meaning of a word in a collective bargaining agreement, arbitrators have frequently relied upon dictionary definitions of words.
8:02 Primary Rules of Interpretation
8:03 Other Rules of Interpretation
8:04 Past Practice
8:05 Bargaining History
8:06 Parol Evidence Rule
8:07 External Law
8:08 Effect of Prior Arbitration Awards and Court Decisions
8:09 Effect of Final and Binding Language
8:10 Effect of Prior Settlement of Grievance