Arbitrating Grievances


 I have completed one of the three readings I wanted to complete after visiting the AFT Higher Education Conference last week.  I want to thank Gregory M. Salzman, not only for presenting, but also for providing a copy of Decision Making Principles of Labor Arbitrators in College and University Grievance Cases which will appear in the NEA 2010 ALMANAC OF HIGHER EDUCATION.  What I mostly learned is that this is an article to keep handy in my union folder in Dropbox.

I wrote in an earlier post that I also learned that ambiguous contract language can be turned against the drafter.  Here are two other notable principles I learned. 

First, proposing language in negotiations can be seen as an implicit admission that the proposed policy is not in the contract.  The arbitrator cannot grant what the other side has turned down in negotiations.   Wayne State University tried to impose furlough days in 1981, but lost the case when the arbitrator learned that the University tried to get a furlough provision into a 1975 contract.

 Second, reliance applies in arbitration as well as court.  If employees rely on promises from the agent of an employer they will often win grievances.  A custodial employee of a college relied on the promise of a human resources vice president that he could withdraw his resignation after a short period of time.  The college tried to maintain the resignation took immediate effect.  The arbitrator ruled that an employee can rely on the word of a human resources supervisor.  Salzman also mentions in the Power Point accompanying his lecture that a manager that told employees to take a paid snow day.  (This may have been a hypothetical case.)  If the college later tried to not pay the employees, the employees would likely win the grievance since relying on the word of the manager they would have suffered damages.

Finally, let me apologize if anyone came here expecting to read about baseball salary arbitration and not labor union grievance resolution.  Dave Dombrowski (GM Tigers) doesn’t let his arbitration eligible players ever get to a hearing so I don’t need to learn much about that.

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