The arbitration review board: an analysis of its development and impact on the arbitration process in the coal industry

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Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

The Arbitration Review Board existed in the bituminous coal industry from 1974 to 1981. Established during the 1974 contract negotiations between the Bituminous Coal Operators Association and the United Mine Workers of America, the ARB represented an effort to obtain consistency in arbitration decisions. The ARB operated as an industry appellate board designed to hear appeals of arbitration awards, and the decisions of the ARB were contractually mandated as industry precedents requiring arbitrator compliance. Although the parties terminated the ARB in 1981, they have continued to incorporate the precedent decisions in subsequent contracts. This study utilizes both a qualitative assessment and an empirical analysis of arbitration decisions to determine the impact of the ARB on the arbitration process in the coal industry.

Structured interviews were conducted with former ARB members, arbitrators, management representatives, and union representatives to gather information with which to construct a complete historical perspective of the ARB's inception, operation, and termination. A total of 44 individuals were interviewed. The empirical assessment involved a content analysis of 300 arbitration decisions to determine the extent to which arbitrators have adhered to the ARB precedents.

Conclusions of the research suggest that the ARB has had a profound impact on coal industry arbitration. Arbitrators increasingly adhered to ARB decisions during its existence, and have continued to exhibit a high degree of adherence following the ARB's termination. The difficulties encountered in implementing the ARB and the factors contributing to its termination are discussed.

Arbitration Review Board