FAQ: What is an arbitration?

As you may have heard, the GEO is holding a rally and asking for signatures on petition in an effort to get the University to meet with us to determine the remedy on a recent arbitration decision.
You may be asking yourself, “What is an arbitration?” “Do they have to comply?” “Can they just take their time?”
Let’s begin by discussing what an arbitration is. The arbitration is the final stage of the grievance process, as described in Article XVIII of the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) between the GEO and the University. In 2014, students in the Masters of Computer Science (MCS) program made the GEO aware that their department was asking departments that employed them to pay their tuition. GEO grieved this as a violation of the tuition waiver side letter attached to the CBA. The University denied the grievance at every level, thus the grievance remained unresolved. The GEO chose to arbitrate because of the importance of tuition waivers to members of the GEO.
MCS students standing strong
MCS students standing strong
When the GEO goes to arbitration, the GEO’s and the University’s lawyers must choose an arbitrator. The Federal Mediation and Conciliation Services (FMCS) or the American Arbitration Association (AAA) submits 5 possible arbitrators who are members of the National Academy of Arbitrators. The GEO’s and University’s lawyers each eliminate 2 arbitrators; the remaining arbitrator will serve as arbitrator. The University, the GEO, and the arbitrator then select a date and location for the arbitration; in the case of the MCS arbitration, the arbitration was held in August 2015, a year after the initial grievance was filed, at the iHotel.
In the arbitration, the arbitrator essentially serves as the judge. The lawyers make oral arguments during the arbitration. The arbitrator asks clarifying questions of the lawyers and any witnesses brought forth. The GEO and the University also provide evidence for the arbitrator to consider when making the decision. After the oral arguments, the lawyers submit written briefs stating their case to the arbitrator; the University’s lawyers delayed in submitting the brief and did not submit it until mid-November 2015. After receiving both briefs, the arbitrator determines which party wins and any remedies. An arbitration decision is a legally-binding decision, meaning that the University must comply with it.
In the case of the MCS arbitration, the arbitrator determined on January 26, 2016, that the GEO had won. The arbitrator did not determine the remedy, but instructed the GEO and the University to meet to determine the remedy. That meeting is happening Wednesday, April 1st and we want members and the community to show up outside of Henry Administration building to demonstrate just how much this meeting means to us!
A previous arbitration decision determined that Fine and Applied Arts students were owed money for tuition paid. After that arbitration, the University waited years to comply with the remedy. The remedy was only met when the GEO agreed to sign the CBA in 2012. We cannot let that happen again.
The University works because we do.
Bring your work, office hours and classes to the quad!
Bring your work, office hours and classes to the quad!

Author: Alia Bellwood

Alia is a PhD student in the Department of Communication studying Rhetoric. She is proud to be an ex-debater, St. John's University and Syracuse University alum, and current GEO Officer at-Large.