August 2012 Update
Progress is being made. It was recently announced that Herbert Fishgold has been appointed by the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service to serve at the neutral arbitrator who will resolve the bargaining impasse over the terms of the 2011 National Agreement. This is an important step. Yet, additional matters need to be decided before the arbitration process can proceed.
Before the arbitration hearings can begin each party must appoint their individual members to serve with the neutral on the arbitration panel. In this regard, the Postal Service will appoint an arbitrator and the Union will appoint an arbitrator. These three arbitrators, the neutral, and the arbitrators appointed by the parties, will constitute the arbitration panel.
The arbitrators appointed by the parties are not really neutral; but rather, serve in a role which ensures that the neutral arbitrator is well acquainted with the accuracy, importance, and context, of the issues and arguments put forth by the respective parties. These party appointed arbitrators may issue concurring or dissenting opinions based upon their views of certain aspects of the neutral arbitrator’s final decision; although, these types of opinions would likely be limited to major or particularly contentious issues. For example a party appointed arbitrator may choose to issue a concurring opinion which outlines a certain aspect of the decision and explains why they find to be proper and well-reasoned in light of all the relevant circumstances. Conversely, a party appointed arbitrator could issue a dissenting opinion which explains why a given result was neither appropriate nor justified under the circumstances.
The arbitration panel may also convene executive sessions. These executive sessions could be held at any time during the arbitration process and could include only the arbitration panel or the arbitration panel and the advocates from each party. For example, an executive session could be held following the parties opening statements where the arbitration panel brings in the advocates to describe what evidence or testimony the panel wishes to hear with respect to particular contentions. This is usually done to allow the parties a more informed opportunity to present their cases and to preserve the efficiency as well as the economy of the arbitration process.
Ultimately, following all the days of hearing, all the testimony, and all the introduction of evidence, the arbitration panel will meet in executive session to begin the decision making process. As of this date hearing dates have not been scheduled; but I can assure you that your Union is working diligently and is committed to putting forth our best case.