Other Models for Labor-Management Dispute Resolution: The Wisconsin Experiment

35 Pages Posted: 14 May 2010

Date Written: May 13, 2010


Twenty-two years ago leaders from the Wisconsin Department of Labor Relations and leaders from the Wisconsin State Employees Union, AFSCME Council 24, agreed that they needed a more efficient way to deal with their backlog of grievances, many of which involved routine issues and did not require a precedential decision. To that end they mutually crafted two special arbitration procedures: the umpire arbitration process and the expedited arbitration process. In the intervening years the parties have resolved a large portion of their grievances using these special procedures, and today relatively few grievances are taken to conventional arbitration.

Given this extended and extensive track record, the parties were interested in now more closely examining their experience to determine how the advocates who have been in the trenches and use these special processes evaluate them and how they might be improved. To that end arbitrators prepared a ninety-question anonymous survey to which an advocate could respond with a quantifiable score and could also offer additional related thoughts.

All of the advocates – who among themselves had one to thirty-six years of labor relations experience – responded to this survey. Results revealed that both union and management advocates are highly satisfied with the umpire arbitration and expedited arbitration processes. Advocates suggested very few changes and none would support eliminating these special procedures as options.

In short, it is fair to say that the parties have realized their goal of resolving select grievances more efficiently while at the same time preserving fairness and effectiveness. These special arbitration procedures have worked well, and in today’s even more challenging economy other parties with substantial grievance backlogs could learn much from the Wisconsin experience.

Keywords: Wisconsin Department of Labor Relations, Wisconsin State Employees Union, AFSCME Council 24, special arbitration procedures, umpire arbitration, expedited arbitration, full arbitration, conventional arbitration, cost effective arbitration, resolving Union grievances, Grievance backlogs

Suggested Citation

Ver Ploeg, Christine D., Other Models for Labor-Management Dispute Resolution: The Wisconsin Experiment (May 13, 2010). William Mitchell Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2010-12, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1607140 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1607140

Christine D. Ver Ploeg (Contact Author)

William Mitchell College of Law ( email )

875 Summit Avenue
St. Paul, MN 55105-3076
United States
(651) 290-6317 (Phone)
(651) 290-6406 (Fax)

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