Over fifty years ago George Taylor, one of the most highly respected labor-management neutrals of his time, called for third parties to take on what he termed "a mantle of responsibility for labor-management relations." Today, wide ranges of practitioners are assuming this responsibility. They are playing a variety of internal and external roles, as labor arbitrators, mediators, consultants, facilitators, dispute system designers, leaders serving on joint committees, and countless others. These individuals strive to rise above the partisan pressures that are found in any union-management relationship by helping to resolve disputes, foster problem solving, and build new institutional relations. In doing so, they are helping the institution of collective bargaining adapt in ways necessary for it to continue to be a key societal element into the next century.
As dispute resolution professionals, we need to understand the range of practices now found in different relationships, the types of roles neutrals might play, and the principles that should guide neutrals as they carry out these roles. The purpose of this report, therefore, is to outline principles for SPIDR members, other neutrals, and the parties who utilize the services of third party neutrals in contemporary labor-management relations. Specifically, we have three target audiences in mind: labor relations neutrals, steeped in the institutional nuances of industrial relations (primarily arbitrators and mediators), who are being challenged to help parties adapt to new circumstances; third-party neutrals experienced in settings outside of labor relations who are or will be working with parties in unionized settings; internal facilitator sand change agents (from labor or management) who are helping to solve problems and resolve disputes in the workplace.
Some points in this report may be completely obvious to one part of the target audience but an essential caution to another. Some of the recommendations will be controversial since they reflect an activist view of third-party roles. Importantly, this is not an overall guide to best practice for labor-management relations; instead, it is a guide to the role of dispute resolution professionals in the labor-management context. We hope that it stimulates further constructive dialogue in the profession.