Document Type

Article

Publication Date

1977

Abstract

Logic, so the cliche goes, is not the life of the law. But logic is very much like the DNA of the law-the structural principle without which all is sprawl and muddle. In the last ten years a controversy has raged over the role of the labor arbitrator in issuing awards, and the role of the courts in reviewing and enforcing those awards. This controversy has largely taken the form of a continuing debate among scholars and practicing arbitrators at the annual meetings of the National Academy of Arbitrators. With due respect to the thoughtful and experienced persons who have contributed to this debate during the past decade, I think that a fundamental illogicality has pervaded these discussions. The error, as I see it, is that we have tried to impose a personal vision on a process that is not of our making. Thus, some worry about the validity and finality of arbitral awards and argue that arbitrators should seek guidance from statutory law in order to reduce the likelihood of challenge in the courts. Others examine arbitrators' professional credentials and conclude they are not up to the task of construing statutes, even if the courts would permit them to do it. Still others stress the undoubted role of the arbitrator as part and parcel of the ongoing collective bargaining process and insist that insofar as arbitrators embark upon the totally different mission of statutory interpretation, their awards will lose the deference traditionally accorded them by the courts. I too have been guilty of this effort to impose a personal vision. In an early round of the debate, I drew what I now consider a quite inadequate distinction between judicial review of an arbitral award based wholly on contract interpretation and judicial review of an arbitral award based at least in part on statutory interpretation. This essay is an effort to restore a logical perspective to labor arbitration and to clarify the respective roles of the arbitrator and the courts. I shall first present a concept of the arbitrator as "contract reader," then consider the statutory and decisional support for this concept-with emphasis on the landmark Enterprise Wheel case-and, finally, examine the recognized grounds for a judicial refusal to enforce an arbitrator's decision.