Assignment of Labor Arbitration

37 Pages Posted: 3 May 2007


An individual employee is not a party to the collective bargaining agreement between a union and an employer. Additionally, under the terms of most collective bargaining agreements, the union owns the arbitration procedure, and therefore, it is entirely up to the union whether it will proceed with the arbitration. As a party to the arbitration, it is also the union's decision whether to appeal any adverse arbitration award. Stated another way, the grievant simply does not have standing to proceed without the support of his or her union.

Under existing law, if the union does not agree that an arbitration case has merit, there is very little an individual employee can do other than to sue the union for breach of the duty of fair representation. This Article argues, however, that there is a way to avoid hostility and unnecessary litigation in a way which will satisfy the grievant, his or her union, and perhaps even the employer. It is submitted that in certain cases the union could assign its right to proceed with the arbitration to the grievant. The grievant would have his day in court, and the union would not have to bear the time and considerable expense of arbitration with respect to a claim it believed either lacked merit or which should be presented by the individual grievant.

To this commentator's astonishment, there is no academic commentary addressing the important issue of whether or not unions can assign their right to arbitrate or their right to appeal to an individual grievant. Additionally, there are only three judicial decisions on this issue, and all three opinions arose in the public sector. In all three of these decisions, the courts held that the union could not make the assignment. As explained in this Article, a close examination of these decisions demonstrates that all three of these decisions were wrongly decided.

Keywords: arbitration, assignment, standing, contracts, labor law, employment law

JEL Classification: J51, J52, K12, K31

Suggested Citation

Rubinstein, Mitchell H., Assignment of Labor Arbitration. St. John's Law Review, Vol. 81, p. 41, 2007, St. John's Legal Studies Research Paper No. 06-0076, NYLS Legal Studies Research Paper No. 06/07-30, Available at SSRN:

Mitchell H. Rubinstein (Contact Author)

New York Law School ( email )

52 Broadway, 9th Floor
New York, NY 10004
United States
212-533-6300 (Phone)
212-995-2347 (Fax)


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