Arbitration is a means for settling labor disputes through a neutral and independent third party instead of relying on the court system or job actions, such as strikes or lock-outs (although it does not generally preclude simultaneous activities short of striking). Union leaders often secure it into collective bargaining agreements (CBAs) as the final step in the grievance process to resolve disputes relating to the interpretation and implementation of existing contract provisions. Generally, this occurs when one party alleges the other violated a term of the CBA.
Once labor or management initiates arbitration, the parties go through a process to select an arbitrator that is acceptable to both sides. The arbitrator will then hold a quasi-judicial hearing where witnesses, evidence and arguments can be presented before a final, binding decision – enforceable in court, if necessary – is made.
In Connecticut’s public sector, state law prohibits union members from engaging in strikes and employers from imposing lock-outs. Instead, if the parties are unable to agree to the terms of a new contract, state law requires “interest arbitration” for resolving negotiation disputes for state, municipal, and board of education employees.
In such cases, labor and management each submit their “last best offer” (LBO) on each unresolved issue to an individual or panel of arbitrators who will select the more “reasonable” LBO. Their final decision is binding unless rejected by the relevant legislative body by a super-majority vote. In such instances, a different arbitrator will review and issue a final and binding decision.
Interest arbitration is relatively rare in the private sector and utilized only upon mutual agreement by both parties.
Click here for the AAA’s “demand for arbitration” form (December, 2021).
Click here for a “how to guide” for filing a demand for arbitration with a sample form (August, 2023).
Click here for the CSBMA’s current panel of eligible arbitrators (December, 2022).
Click here for a document with a simplified arbitration overview.