Document Type

Article

Publication Date

2000

Abstract

A quarter century ago, I used the phrase "contract reader" to characterize the role an arbitrator plays in construing a collective bargaining agreement. This phrase has almost invariable been misunderstood to refer to reading or interpreting the contract. When I spoke of the "contract reader," it was in the context of judicial review of an award. My point was this: When a court has before it an arbitrator's award applying a collective bargaining agreement, it is as if the employer and the union had signed a stipulation stating: "What the arbitrator says this contract means is exactly what we meant it to say. That is what we intended by agreeing the award would be 'final and binding.'" In this sense an "erroneous interpretation" of the contract by the arbitrator is a contradiction in terms. This paper updates this thesis, emphasizing what may be the hottest issue in judicial review: When may a court set aside an arbitral award on the ground that it violates public policy? It also addresses the "contract interpretation" aspect of the "contract reader" - namely, How should an arbitrator go about "reading" or interpreting a contract?