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Learn about grievance arbitration

When a grievance or formal complaint filed by a union on behalf of an employee or group of employees is not resolved at lower levels of the grievance procedure it may go to arbitration.

What is arbitration?

Arbitration is a method of settling a labor-management dispute by having an impartial third party hold a formal hearing, take testimony and render a final and binding decision.

Why is an arbitration decision also called an opinion and award?

An arbitration decision is rendered after an arbitrator, an impartial third party, holds a formal hearing to learn the facts of a case from both the employer and union. A decision, or opinion and award, is then issued after the arbitrator examines the case and reflects on the hearing.

Who pays for grievance arbitration?

Arbitration fees are paid by the parties as negotiated under collective bargaining agreements. Typically the costs are split equally between the employer and union.

How is interest arbitration different from grievance arbitration?

Interest arbitration is a process whereby the issues not resolved in bargaining between the employer and the union may be presented to an impartial arbitrator for final resolution. This differs from grievance arbitration, wherein the arbitrator interprets a term in an existing contract. Interest arbitration is not permitted under RCW 41.80. Washington State Ferries employees, home care individual providers, child care workers, adult family home providers and commissioned officers of the Washington State Patrol are examples of bargaining units with access to interest arbitration. Interest arbitration typically affects the outcome of a successor collective bargaining agreement.

How is an arbitrator selected?

Upon receiving a list of arbitrators from an organization like the American Arbitration Association (AAA) or Federal Mediation and Conciliation Services (FMCS), the employer and the union go through a striking selection process to determine an arbitrator. AAA is a private, non-profit organization that promotes arbitration as a method for settling disputes outside of the courtroom. Many of the collective bargaining agreements reference AAA as the agreed-upon service to supply an arbitrator. FMCS is an independent, federal agency that provides mediation, conflict resolution, training, and arbitration services to the private sector and governmental agencies.