Labor Law Clinic students obtained a great win on behalf of their clients in an arbitration case involving a contract dispute under a collective bargaining agreement and parallel statutory claim under the National Labor Relations Act. The dispute involved a change that would have made it easier for the Company to discipline and terminate workers. The change is considered a mandatory subject of bargaining, but the Company had failed to negotiate with the Union before implementing the change despite having bargained over a new collective bargaining agreement. The collective bargaining agreement provides final and mandatory arbitration as the dispute resolution mechanism if the parties are unable to reach an agreement through the grievance process.
The Labor Law Clinic was contacted to represent the client in the arbitration process, and had also filed an unfair labor practice charge with the National Labor Relations Board. Law student Cole Quigley handled the hearing before the neutral arbitrator. He put the case together, delivered the opening statement, did the direct examinations for three of our witnesses, and the cross-examinations of the Company’s witnesses. He also handled the evidentiary objections and the preliminary issues involved in the case. The post-arbitration brief was researched and written by Cole Quigley, Jack Ligon, Malcolm Drentell, and Robb Ridgley. Jason Steuerwald was also involved in this case early on when he was a pro bono scholar in the Labor Law Clinic.
The neutral arbitrator was selected by the parties from a panel issued by the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service. The arbitrator’s decision awarded the client all the relief requested, including returning to the policy most generous to employees and altering the discipline issued to two workers under the new policy.
Law student Quigley Cole said that “the arbitration has been my most valuable legal experience. The arbitration was a lot of work but taught me so many things and gave me tons of practical training . . . not only did it teach me about labor law but gave me litigation experience…I truly enjoyed working with the Union.” The Union client expressed appreciation for the work and stated that “the outcome will have a significant impact on the membership going forward. This case shows the significant advantage of being in organized labor and having a collective bargaining agreement. Management cannot just change terms and conditions of employment at will. The membership has a voice in their workplace which management cannot ignore and going forward the Union will site this very case.”