120 ◾ Labor Law: A Basic Guide to the National Labor Relations Act
© 2011 by Taylor & Francis Group, LLC
◾ Arbitration clauses should be construed broadly. Courts will nd most dis-
putes to be subject to labor arbitration (although this may vary depending on
how the arbitration language in the contract is drafted).
◾ e fact that the company thinks a dispute is utterly without merit (and can
prove it) is not grounds to refuse arbitration. If the dispute arises under a
provision of the agreement, it is arbitrable.
◾ e arbitrator’s decision will not be overturned unless it can be shown he/
she did not base the award on the provisions of the contract or was other-
wise biased for one side. An arbitrator is not allowed to dispense his/her
“own brand of industrial justice,” but must interpret the parties agreement.
e arbitrator derives his/her power from the parties themselves and from
In an earlier decision, the Supreme Court noted that federal law would apply
to arbitration disputes, not state law.* Many state courts were distrustful of labor
arbitration years ago and would not uphold the legitimacy of arbitration provisions
in labor contracts. e Supreme Court made it clear that state courts had no power
to apply state law to arbitration disputes with regard to employees who were covered
by the National Labor Relations Act.
Later Supreme Court cases have added even more potency to the concept of
labor arbitration. For instance, it is now clear that a dispute that arises when the
labor agreement is in eect must be arbitrated if the union so desires even though
the old contract that created the arbitration duty has expired. Another case held
that the public policy in favor of arbitration was so strong that it required an arbi-
trator’s decision to be upheld who ordered an employee who was using drugs rein-
stated to his job.
at is, the public policy in favor of having a drug-free workplace
was outweighed by the policy in favor of labor arbitration.
In more recent years, the Supreme Court has upheld arbitration provisions in
employment agreements in companies where no unions were involved. Once again,
the High Court based its decision on the strong public policy in favor of informal,
inexpensive, speedy resolution of disputes that arbitration provides (at least in com-
parison to law suits).
How Is an Arbitrator Selected?
e parties can specify any method they desire in the collective bargaining agree-
ment. Most parties to labor agreements obtain their arbitrators from one of two
agencies: the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service (FMCS) or the American
Textile Workers Union v. Lincoln Mills, 353 U.S. 448 (1957).
United Paperworkers International Union, AFL-CIO v. Misco, Inc., 484 U.S. 29 (1987).
EEOC v. Wae House, Inc., 534 U.S. 279 (2002).