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HB 178 ‘Binding Arbitration For Public Labor Disputes’ But What Does That Mean And Why It Is Important

Have you ever had a debate with someone and and then turned to someone else and say ‘what do you think?’  That is very similar to the new law being proposed by a group of legislators in the NH House.

The bill, HB 178AN ACT relative to binding arbitration in public labor relations disputes.” is a very simple change that helps solve contract disputes and avoids any type of strikes or collective actions.  

Those of us who are familiar with contract language, arbitration and mediation will understand this law change easily.

“If the impasse is not resolved following the action of the legislative body, each party shall submit its last best offer to binding arbitration. The arbitrator shall choose the offer of one of the parties in its entirety and such offer shall become the new agreement and shall be binding on both parties, although still subject to approval of cost items by the legislative body.”

For those unfamiliar with contract negotiations let me explain.  In the negotiation process sometimes both sides are unwilling to give on a certain issue.  In many negotiations pay and vacation time are the most common issues that lead to an ‘impasse’ (a deadlock).  

After one side declares ‘impasse’ or the both sides can agree to mediation. This is where a neutral third party is introduced.  Sometimes the mediator can help work out the differences between the two sides and come up with new suggestions to resolving the deadlock.

If mediation fails, the employer can choose to impose their ‘last best offer’ as the new contract.  This was the case in the dispute between the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) and the FAA.

There is one more avenue that can resolve the impasse and is very effective.  This is called ‘binding arbitration’.  Binding arbitration is where the neutral third party (most cases the mediator) makes a ruling on the dispute.  This means that however the arbitrator rules both sides must accept it and move on.

To avoid being forced into another imposed work rules situation again, NATCA pushed for a similar ‘Binding Arbitration’ bill in the US Congress.

Binding arbitration does not always benefit the union, so why would the unions be pushing for binding arbitration?  Because having a ruling against you is better than not solving your contract dispute and being forced to go on strike.   This is even more beneficial for public sector unions who are forbidden from striking.

The ultimate goal is to bargain collectively and reach an agreement.  This law change will help labor unions and public employers reach agreement and resolve their contract disputes in a fair and equal process.

The NHLN says yes to this bill!  While this may not solve all of the issues between contract negotiations in NH, anything to move the process along is a win for everyone.



About Matt Murray

Matt Murray is the creator and an author on the NH Labor News. He is a union member and advocate for labor and progressive politics. He also works with other unions and members to help spread our message. Follow him on Twitter @NHLabor_News
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  1. […] I want to be clear that a ban on transit strikes is not necessarily a step that could or should empower management over unions.  One could imagine a range of other options to resolve labor disputes – for instance, binding arbitration to resolve contract negotiation disputes.  In fact, it’s conceivable that binding arbitration might produce more favorable results to unions over the long-run than strikes.  (Here is an example of a labor-friendly web site supporting binding arbitration in New Hampshire.) […]

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