Law 798:  Labor Arbitration

About 90% of collective bargaining agreements in the private sector – and 100% in the public sector – provide for the arbitration of disputes arising under them as the final stage of the contractual grievance procedure. Several thousand of these disputes are arbitrated annually, only a small portion of the arbitrators’ decisions, called “awards,” are publicly available. This course will introduce the student to the arbitration system from an “on the ground” perspective.

The course will proceed in two parts. The first four sessions will introduce the student to the law of grievance arbitration in the private sector with echoes in the public sector (with reference to Illinois) and to the workings of the system. A syllabus of assigned readings will be placed online.

The rest of the course will be devoted to student engagement with important recurring issues arbitrators confront. The instructor has received the permission of the publisher of The Common Law of the Workplace, a treatise written by labor arbitrators on the nuts and bolts of arbitral decisions, to make that book available to students online (and free). It will be the text for the remainder of the course. In the course’s third session, a problem will be transmitted in which students will be asked to write an award not to exceed 500 words which they will transmit to the instructor who will share them with the class for discussion in the next class.

What will follow is the same process: the facts and arguments in a real case raising a recurring issue will be circulated. Students will be expected to write a brief decision on it. These student awards will be returned to the instructor who will circulate them for class discussion in the ensuing class session. This procedure will be followed in all of the following sessions.

Sequence and Prerequisites: None

Evaluation: These awards will be graded by the instructor and averaged for the course’s final grade. Grades on each will not be disclosed to the student at the time, but grounds of criticism – weakness in comprehensiveness or lapses in reasoning not attributed to identified students – will be part of the post-submission class discussion. Further, in a rare case, if a student is in difficulty, meaning the recurring reception of a low grade, the instructor will alert the student for private consultation. As there is no single substantial paper, these awards will not satisfy the senior writing requirement, but they should provide students a valuable writing experience nonetheless.

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