Court Expands Arbitration Role in Labor Dispute
Ramstack, Tom, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)
A federal appeals court decision in the District this month expanded the role of arbitration in collective bargaining agreements to include any disputes about whether arbitration can be used.
The decision involved a job rescheduling of unionized mailroom workers by The Washington Post. The Post did not want the issue decided by arbitration. The Washington Mailers Union No. 29 did want arbitration.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit said that even if the disputed issue is whether arbitration should be used, an arbiter must resolve the issue.
In the Post case, management and mailroom workers disputed how to interpret wording in their collective bargaining agreement that defined when arbitration should be used.
"There's very little or any law on this issue in D.C.," said Mark Wilson, co-counsel for the Washington Mailers Union No. 29. "In essence what it does is say that if it's a toss-up, and it's unclear about whether it's arbitrable or not arbitrable, it's up to the arbitrator to decide. This really does break new ground in D.C."
Two years ago, The Post reached a collective bargaining agreement with the Washington Mailers Union No. 29. Months later, The Post announced that it planned to reduce the number of mailroom workers from 144 to 122. The company offered the 22 extra workers five shifts a week but with no fixed work schedule.
The union argued that the variable work shifts violated the collective bargaining agreement. …