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November 21, 2013

Analyzing A-Rod's Arbitration Case

Where A-Rod's Representation Went Wrong

by Eugene Freedman


On Wednesday, Alex Rodriguez reportedly stormed out of his disciplinary hearing and made various pronouncements to the media, most notably during an interview with Mike Francesa on WFAN and the YES Network. Under normal circumstances, we could see this as his true emotional response to the negative ruling he’d just received (that Commissioner Selig would not be required to testify in the case). But because everything we’ve seen thus far from A-Rod and his team has been so orchestrated, I can interpret this only as a well-rehearsed and well-scheduled event like all of the rest.

Over the course of this drama, we’ve read and heard a lot from and about Alex Rodriguez’s legal team. For many of us in the labor relations field, the entire concept of A-Rod having a legal team is anathema to the grievance arbitration process.

In a normal grievance procedure, either the Union or an employee may file a grievance at Step 1, although even when an employee files his own grievance, the Union has the right to be present and argue its position. But once the grievance moves to arbitration, the process is owned exclusively by the Union. This is because arbitration is a contractual right, not a statutory right. The Union is the party to the Collective Bargaining Agreement, and it should control which cases go forward so that individual members cannot create bad law of the contract, undermining the rights of the rest of the bargaining unit.

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