That bargaining agreement did contain a clause for arbitration of disputes, and these disputes included having differences regarding the meaning and application of the agreement, as well as a provision that required back pay and reinstatement for employees that were fired or otherwise let go if the company was in any way in violation of that agreement by ending the employment of these individuals.
This is by far the most groundbreaking and fascinating case of the steelworkers trilogy, largely because it looks at an arbitration that did take place and the subsequent refusal of the company to comply with the award that was determined during arbitration. The individuals that had been terminated from the company went to arbitration to have their cases heard after the collective bargaining agreement had expired, but had been terminated during the time that it was still in force. During the arbitration, the arbitrator found that the company was in violation of the collective bargaining agreement that it had with these individuals and that pursuant to the terms of the agreement the individuals that had been discharged must be reinstated and given back pay. The only thing the employees would lose from this back pay would be pay for a ten-day suspension and any money that the employees had received from any other employment they had taken after their discharge.
The company refused to comply with the arbitration award and the District Court got involved and required that the company comply. The Appeals Court, however, held that the award was unenforceable because the amounts that would had to have been deducted from the back pay were not specified, however that could be easily remedied by requiring all of the parties to complete the arbitration. The appeals court also held that providing any type of award for back pay past the expiration date of the collective bargaining agreement was unenforceable and therefore the reinstatement of the terminated employees was also unenforceable based on the fact that that agreement had expired. When this case reach the Supreme Court, that Court held that the District Court's judgment should have been affirmed by the Appeals Court with a slight modification that required the specific amounts that were due to the terminated employees be determined definitely through arbitration.
This was a clear indication that the Supreme Court believed the Appeals Court had overstepped its boundaries and therefore found that the individuals that were terminated while the collective bargaining agreement was still in place did indeed deserve to have a reinstatement and back pay minus any pay that they received from other sources of employment after they were discharged from the company. This was a significant step for arbitration because it allowed arbitrators to realize that the Supreme Court was basically behind them when it came to determination of arbitration agreements and what type of awards these wrongly treated employees should receive.
Case #3 - United Steelworkers of America v. Warrior & Gulf Navigation Co.
In the Warrior case, the main question was essentially the same as that in the American case (Case #1 here). The issue at hand is whether the company had agreed to arbitration regarding a particular grievance or type of grievance, but the difference is that the Warrior case dealt with the provision that arbitration would not be agreed upon in matters which were considered to be strictly a function of the management of the company. In the case of Warrior, the promise for arbitration was different and therefore the scope of inquiry taken by the Court was also different. In this case, the Court had to examine the substantive provisions that were found within the contract in order to determine whether the parties to that contract provided that contracting out should be a management function.
In this case, the Court determined that there was inconclusive evidence and that there was a very broad arbitration clause and a very vague exclusion clause. Due to this, Warrior was not limited by covenants of good faith and could contract out however and whenever it pleased. By being able to do this, Warrior could destroy the collective bargaining agreement completely - all it had to do was to contract out all of the work. Whether this is fair to the union and the collective bargaining agreement is cause for concern, but the Court only looked at the issue of law, as they should. Because the arbitration clause was rather vague, Warrior was able to get around what the union felt that the company should do and therefore did not suffer any punishment for the alleged refusal to arbitrate a grievance.
As can be seen from the three cases presented above, arbitration has changed a great deal. The steelworkers trilogy cases are some of the most influential and groundbreaking cases when it comes to decisions made by arbitrators and changes made to collective bargaining agreements in order to ensure that the language of them was clear and that arbitration was utilized when and where it was appropriate. Arbitration is a very good way to solve many complex problems, whether between business individuals or between individuals having concerns regarding a personal issue.
Despite this, however, arbitration is not perfect and occasionally mistakes are made. This is the main reason that the courts sometimes have to get involved in arbitration issues. Many times, the courts must get involved in this type of issue because the language regarding arbitration in the collective bargaining agreement is not as clear as it should be. The steelworkers trilogy cases helped to make collective bargaining agreements more clear and helped companies and unions to ensure that they had everything down in writing when they entered into collective bargaining agreements, especially where arbitration and other grievance procedures were concerned. Not only did this have significance for unions and their members, but it also had a lot of significance for companies, as these companies learned how careful they must be in the wording of agreements they enter into with unions in the future in order to avoid court battles and other expensive problems.
The nature of arbitration would likely have changed to some extent regardless of whether the steelworkers cases ever went to court and regardless of how they ended up. However, arbitration changed more rapidly because of these cases and because of the outcome. In general, the courts ruled in favor of the employees or the unions. While this was not always the case, such as in the case of Warrior, there was an overwhelming tendency to find that the employees or the unions had acted in good faith with the complaints that they had raised and had attempted to take the steps that were indicated in the collective bargaining agreement toward arbitration. In essence, it was not the fault of these individuals that the companies refused arbitration or refused to pay the award that they were asked to pay when arbitration was completed.
Overall, arbitrations are impacted by the steelworkers trilogy most strongly in the area of wording of collective bargaining agreements. In most cases, courts look at these agreements very literally and if the language of these agreements is not supportive of what the company has decided to do then the company is found to be at fault. Because of this, collective bargaining agreements were somewhat changed and companies are more careful now when they agree to them. Arbitration is also impacted based on the fact that it is taken more seriously now than it was in the past. It appeared as though companies in the steelworkers trilogy cases either believed that arbitration was not important enough for them to go through or believed that, having gone through arbitration, the arbitrators' opinion or assumption regarding what should be done with the case were not valid or binding.
In these cases, it took a court of law to indicate to the company that the arbitration was indeed significant and the arbitrator's decision was enforceable. This should serve as a wake-up call to companies that may be considering not paying an arbitration award or not being willing to go to arbitration with an employee or union that requests it. If these companies have a collective bargaining agreement or other type of agreement that states that arbitration is the way that grievances will be handled than these companies must be willing to go to arbitration and must also be willing to accept the judgment that the arbitrator gives based on what type of award should be given in the case and to whom.
Without the willingness of companies to participate in arbitration if it is in their grievance procedure to do so, the courts will be backlogged with other cases that deal with a lack of willingness by the company to go to arbitration or to make good on the award that the arbitrator determined was necessary. The three cases…