M6A1: Case Analysis – Arbitration Decision
Acme Manufacturing Company Case & United Machine Workers
Description of the Situation:
Production workers at Acme Manufacturing Company are represented by
the United Machine Workers Union. There is a valid labor agreement
between the parties. Relevant provisions from the contract are
provided after the description of the case.
On September 15 Manufacturing Supervisor Joe Jackson asked Kyla
Martin, a machine operator, to remain at the end of the shift and work
overtime. Martin said she could not work overtime that night because
of a prior commitment and suggested that other, more junior, operators
be asked. Jackson agreed, recognizing both Martin’s seniority and her
reason as valid.
About 15 minutes later, Jackson brought a work sheet for September 15
with a refused overtime marked next to Martin’s name and asked her to
initial the sheet next to her name. Thinking that the work sheet might
go into her personnel record as a bad mark, Martin refused to initial
it. She told Jackson that she had refused overtime assignments in the
past and never had been asked to initial a work sheet before.
Jackson replied that employees frequently had been asked to initial
overtime refusals and that he was simply trying to standardize the
procedure. He said the work sheets were used only as a record to show
that the company had offered overtime to employees in accordance with
Martin thought that she was being tricked and again refused to initial
the work sheet. Jackson then gave Martin an order to initial the work
sheet and told her she would be insubordinate and liable to
disciplinary action if she refused.
Martin who had recently been elected a shop steward asked if she could
call over another shop committee member. Jackson agreed. Martin asked
the other shop steward to serve as a witness. She then repeated that
she was officially declining the overtime for the record but would not
initial the work sheet unless Jackson could show her some rule
requiring employees to do so.
Jackson then explained to Martin and the other shop steward that he
had given Martin a “clear and direct” order to initial the work sheet
on penalty of disciplinary action for refusal to do so. Since Martin
still would not initial the work sheet, Jackson said he had no choice
but to suspend Martin for three days. In writing up his disciplinary
action statement, Jackson stated, “Shop stewards especially should
understand insubordination. The company cannot have Ms. Martin setting
this kind of example to the other workers.
Martin grieved the suspension and the parties proceeded to arbitration.
The union argues that the supervisor did not have grounds for
suspending Martin for refusing to initial the overtime sheet since the
procedure had not been required in the past. The company has not
issued new procedures regarding overtime sheets so Martin was within
her rights under the contract to decline the supervisor’s request to
initial the sheet. Based on the company’s past practice that did not
require employees to initial the sheet, the union requests that Martin
be made whole (including back pay, etc.) for the three day suspension
and that this disciplinary action be removed from her record.
The company argues that it has the right to make reasonable rules and
enforce them. If Martin disagreed with the rule, she should have
complied with her supervisor’s request and then grieved the rule. As a
shop steward, she has a higher duty to ensure her actions do not
violate the contract. The company requests that the arbitrator uphold
its decision to suspend Martin.
The parties have agreed that the issue before the arbitrator is:
Issue for the Arbitrator:
Was the discharge of Shop Steward Kyla Martin permissible under the
terms of the agreement? If not, what should the remedy be?
Relevant Contract Provisions and Regulations:
Article V: Employee Responsibilities:
The employees shall comply with the Shop Regulations attached hereto
and made part of this Agreement. It is understood that the Company has
a right to make reasonable rules and that the Union has a right to
grieve the application of such rules if it believes they are being
Article X: Management Rights:
The control of all matters concerning the operation and management of
the plant and the operation of the Company’s business are the
exclusive responsibility of the Company, subject to the provisions of
this Agreement. The Company has the right to discharge, suspend, or
otherwise discipline employees for cause.
Shop Regulation #9
The following are legitimate causes for disciplinary action that may
result in suspension without pay or discharge: refusal to obey orders
from a supervisor; refusal to accept instructions or constructive
criticism when given by a supervisor…
For this assignment:
You will play the role of arbitrator and decide the case below. In
writing an arbitration opinion, you should address the arguments of
each party and why or why not you do not accept them. It is important
to pay careful attention to explaining why you did not accept the
arguments of the losing party without being too harsh in criticizing
that party. It is also important to critique the arguments in a
constructive manner. As in most arbitration cases, you must decide the
issue that the parties have framed.
Your analysis should be about 3 pages in length.
Be sure to review the General Instructions for Case Analysis [PDF file
size 34.0 KB] before you begin.
The evaluation criteria include:
Based on the facts and contract language in this case, have you
clearly analyzed both parties’ positions and explained why you
accepted or rejected their arguments?
Is your decision clearly communicated to the parties?
Is information from the textbook and other sources, if applicable,
integrated into your analysis appropriately? You must provide complete
citations for all references.