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Interest Arbitration & Dispute Resolution 

In its purest form, collective bargaining tests a negotiator's resolve through the ever-present forces of a potential strike or lockout. For many workers, particularly in the public sector where the risk of a strike or lockout creates a potentially higher community risk, the right to withdraw services has been replaced by a unique form of dispute resolution - interest arbitration. While it's not a perfect substitution for strikes or lockouts, the process of interest arbitration can take many forms, from conventional arbitration to the high-risk final offer selection process. Most often arbitrators prefer a process of mediation-arbitration (med-arb) with a heavy emphasis on mediation (in many jurisdictions this is the statutory dispute resolution process).  ​


Bill Cole has represented unions in all forms interest arbitration for almost thirty years. Effective representation requires an awareness of the negotiation process within med-arb, particularly the interactions with the arbitrator, the individual who has the final decision-making authority. With an emphasis on firefighters, police and health care workers, Bill has assisted clients in some of the most complex cases. He also has experience in the less-frequent final-offer selection process - a problematic method for resolving complex collective bargaining disputes.


In certain private sector industries, unions and employers have agreed to resolve their bargaining disputes through arbitration, rather than strike or lockout. Bill has represented private sector clients in final offer selection in the airline industry, as well as med-arb in numerous private sector health services.  


As a focus of his private practice for many years, and as a Senior Research Associate in Harvard's Center for Labor and a Just Economy, Bill's research has examined compulsory dispute resolution systems, including the many variants of interest arbitration. He has written extensively on the topic, and, having a collection of unreported interest arbitration decisions dating back to the early 1960's, Bill draws on interest arbitration's long history, especially in the formulation of its first principles that continue to be applied today.  


Check out our articles section to follow commentary on the process, and an analysis of important decisions covering the last six decades.  For more in collective bargaining go to our page here



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