Synopsis By: Nelson - Proceeding Author:

A review and suggested synthesis of the Howlett/Meltzer debate over the extent to which arbitrators should consider the law in interpreting contracts. Moves from the obvious case where the contract explicitly references the law, to intermediate cases where the law informs the meaning of unclear language, to the debate begun at the prior year’s Academy meeting – as to whether applicable law is implicitly incorporated in every agreement. Suggests both positions taken in the debate are extreme. Endorses a distinction between an award that permits unlawful conduct and an award that requires unlawful conduct. Suggests, in the former case, that the grievants may pursue their rights in the statutory forum. Expresses concern over the conflict between the NLRB and arbitrators regarding principles of contract interpretation. Concludes the role of law in arbitration must be carefully circumscribed.