Every couple of years, the Northern California Region of the National Academy of Arbitrators hosts a great event called “Meet the Arbitrator.” This full-day conference includes many opportunities to meet local labor arbitrators and hear how they consider the most current pressing issues arising in labor arbitration today. Participants can get MCLE credit and lunch for a very low registration fee. The next “Meet the Arbitrator” is scheduled for April 26, 2019 from 8:00am-4:30pm at Milton Marks Conference Center, 455 Golden Gate Ave, San Francisco, and I will posting registration information when it’s available. In the meantime, mark your calendars for this great event.
The California State Mediation and Conciliation Service publicizes fact-finding reports that have become public, and I’ve added links to a couple of my published reports on my Published Decisions page. Fact-finding reports differ from arbitration decisions. They are essentially recommended settlements for collective bargaining agreements that have gone to impasse, and the recommendations are often used by the parties to reach agreement and avoid a strike. If the parties don’t reach agreement within 10 days, the reports become public.
The other day, a party representative commented on this website, saying that she appreciated the availability calendar because it had simplified the process of scheduling our hearing. Other arbitrators, I’ve learned, don’t maintain their own website, and quite a few are leery of having an internet presence at all. In a gathering of arbitrators and would-be arbitrators, I found that very few people had even done an internet search of their name to learn that the parties might find out about them while doing internet research.
I’ve written before about the ethics of social media for neutrals, and you can read that article here, if you like. I also thought it would be helpful to let parties know my personal policy on social media, where I do maintain accounts on the most common social media sites. Here’s my personal policy for each of my social media accounts:
Facebook: I accept requests from or maintain Facebook connections to people I personally socialize with or have been employed with or volunteered with in the past. I don’t accept friend requests from unions, employers or their representatives, staff or members. I maintain a separate Facebook page for my arbitration practice that is publicly available to view.
LinkedIn: I accept all requests from people in the United States and Canada who are likely to have some nexus to my profession, such as HR and union professionals who I have not worked with but who may be looking for my current resume. I don’t have personal connections to very many of the people I am connected to on LinkedIn, and my connection to someone should not be taken as evidence of any personal connection or even knowledge of that person.
Instagram and Twitter: I follow very few people outside of my immediate family and friend groups (Instagram) or journalists, comedians and politicians (Twitter), but haven’t had an occasion to block any followers. Don’t bother following me there; it’s mostly pictures of my dog and my garden, or posts about my non-work writing and reposts of news articles I found interesting. Retweets are not endorsements.
I recognize that this is somewhat unorthodox and welcome feedback about it. Please submit any questions and comments you have. Thanks!
I will be a faculty member at the Labor Arbitration Institute trainings in San Francisco on September 5 and 6, and in Seattle on October 5. These lively and informative trainings offer CLE and CEU units and plenty of time to meet arbitrators and ask questions. Many folks find the Institute to be great for newer and more experienced practitioners. If you come, please introduce yourself to me as a website visitor! I will be speaking on Sexual Harassment and Past Practice, and opining on many hypotheticals. Please join me!
Just a reminder that I will be speaking at the Labor Arbitration Institute on June 18 and 19. You can still register at www.laborarb.com. Please join me!
To become a labor arbitrator, a person needs many years of experience in labor relations and collective bargaining. Many arbitrators retire from a career in law or human resources or union representation and launch their careers as a neutral. In recent decades, this is the most common path; a retirement income is necessary during those early years when labor and management are reluctant to select someone they perceive as new or untested. Even people with a long career in labor relations as an advocate struggle to get recognized as a neutral. In fact, for practitioners entering the profession, it can be an unpleasant surprise that the respect one earned in their field doesn’t translate to business very easily.
Even with a primary income (either from retirement or household sources), a new arbitrator can find themselves with a lot of time on their hands. When I started out, more experienced arbitrators recommended that I line up a hobby and some volunteer work that could structure my time until my practice took off. At first, I ran a lot and worked out, drove my kids to seemingly infinite practices and games, and started writing memoir and fiction for pleasure. I also volunteered for our local Little League board and the Oakland Police Commission. It’s safe to say my plate is now overflowing.
I was reminded of this admonition today when I read an obituary for an arbitrator from Oregon who passed recently. The obituary noted that she would be missed by the labor relations and accordion communities. I found this comment to be both funny and sweet. Clearly this esteemed woman had committed herself to playing the accordion to enrich her life, developing friendships and connections along the way. Most arbitrators have some aspect of their life that is little known to the parties that appear before them. I know of other fiction writers, stamp collectors, private pilots, movie buffs, photographers, swimmers, golfers and jazz musicians. I wonder if there are other accordion-playing arbitrators?