Over the past two decades, mentoring with an
established arbitrator or arbitrators has become a more
prevalent method of learning the profession. Unlike
apprenticeship, mentoring is a less formal and less
dedicated role. Mentoring involves a special relationship
with an established arbitrator but does not necessarily
include a continuous pattern of close engagement. This
flexibility allows mentees to learn from the arbitrator’s
knowledge while demanding less of a time commitment
from the established arbitrator and mentee than an
Labor arbitration is a career which develops slowly. It
takes a significant time to acquire the experience and
skills needed to be acceptable to both parties in an arbitration. Many established arbitrators recall that they
were not selected for a case for many months, and that
several years passed before they heard cases on a routine basis. Additionally, as the relationship between labor
and management matures over time, fewer arbitrators
are selected to hear cases, and more cases settle prior
to hearing. Patience is a virtue in this profession.
APPLYING TO PANELS
After launching their practice as labor arbitrators,
most arbitrators seek membership in the rosters of
FMCS, AAA, and various public sector panels. The FMCS
and AAA administer a large number of labor cases,
and membership adds significantly to a professional’s
credentials. Both rosters are professionally managed,
require a formal application with references, and, once
accepted, include an annual membership fee.
The FMCS roster requires an applicant to have arbitrated
five cases as a prerequisite to membership. However,
successful completion of the 40 hour training program
discussed above will serve to waive three of the five case
requirements. The FMCS roster is not a closed panel and
considers and admits new arbitrators twice a year.
The AAA labor arbitrator roster is closed, meaning that it only occasionally accepts new candidates
for admission. An applicant must be nominated and,
if selected to receive an application, provide nine references (three labor, three management, and three
neutral ) for consideration.
Some state public sector boards also have panels to
which arbitrator applicants may apply, often once they
have completed two to five arbitrations. Most permanent panels established by parties (i.e., a particular
employer and the union representing its employees)
do not seek or accept applications. Rather, the parties
independently select arbitrators who are acceptable to
them. Additionally, some parties independently select
arbitrators on an ad hoc basis, rather than utilizing a
panel or selecting from a roster.
GET INVOLVED IN ACR AND OTHER
Emerging labor arbitrators are strongly encouraged to
join and become active in the ACR Workplace Section.
Volunteering for the Workplace Section allows members to help select topics and presenters for monthly
teleseminars, contribute articles to the Workplace Section newsletter, and provides numerous opportunities
for networking and other professional development.
Attending the annual conference is also a great way
to advance your knowledge and meet and learn from
other workplace ADR professionals. For more information, see www.acrnet.org.
There are other professional organizations an
emerging labor arbitrator may also wish to join.
Depending on the jurisdiction in which you reside,
attending local Labor and Employee Relations Association (LERA) meetings provide an opportunity to
hear speakers on current labor relations issues as well
as meet other neutrals and labor and management
advocates. For more information, see www.leraweb.
org. The American Bar Association Labor & Employee
Relations section is another professional organization that will provide professional development and
networking opportunities. For more information, see
www.americanbar.org. For those interested in pursuing work as a labor arbitrator in the federal sector,
membership in the Society of Federal Labor Relations
Professionals (SFLERP) is also worthy of investigation. See www.sflerp.org.
The field of labor arbitration was forged during World
War II and enjoys more than half a century of legal
and procedural history. It is an honor to be selected to
resolve workplace disputes through labor arbitration,
and allows such neutrals to contribute to the laudable
goal of industrial peace. While the career path to labor
arbitration can be long and arduous, it holds reward
for those with the skills, patience, and dedication
to succeed. n
Emerging labor arbitrators are strongly
encouraged to join and become active in
the ACR Workplace Section.