Black Workers in White Unions: Job Discrimination in the United States

By William B. Gould | Go to book overview
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8 Grievance Arbitration Machinery and Title VII

The Institutional Framework

Although unions and employers have negotiated arbitration provisions since the turn of the century, the arbitration process did not gain substantial impetus in this country until the advent of the War Labor Board and the conclusion of World War II.1 The War Labor Board, which was established during the war in order to ensure uninterrupted production and a measure of equity for workers, attempted to encourage and in some instances to impose both no-strike and grievance procedures which culminated in arbitration -- the selection of a neutral third party who would render a final and binding award resolving the differences between the parties. When World War II ended, the parties had begun to adapt themselves to the process, and it was natural that they should turn to many of the representatives of the War Labor Board, with whom they had become somewhat familiar and in whom they had sufficient confidence to request their assistance as third-party neutrals in negotiating collective-bargaining agreements. (Generally, in this country arbitration has not been used to resolve disputes over new contract terms as frequently as it is utilized in connection with disputes arising during the term of the contract and involving its interpretation. The former are called "interest" disputes and the latter "rights" issues.)

Accordingly, when the Taft-Hartley amendments were passed by Congress over President Truman's veto in 1947, 2* the statute specifically encouraged the negotiation of the grievance-arbitration machinery and, in so doing, ratified a prior trend which had emerged before the War Labor Board became involved. Taft-Hartley attempted to encourage arbitration through two different statutory avenues: (1) Section 301, which made labor contracts enforceable through suits in federal district court -- although, paradoxically, in the wake of that provision's passage, it was feared that the judiciary would usurp the arbitral role and make a mess of what the arbitrators had done;3* and (2) Section 203(d), which provides that "final adjustment by a method agreed upon by the parties is hereby declared to be the desirable method for settlement of grievance disputes arising out of the application or interpretation of an existing collective bargaining agreement."4

Yet the dominant inclination, apparent in the entire sweep of Taft-Hartley and its legislative history, as well as Section 301, was to discipline the unruly unions

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