Paperworkers v. Misco, Inc.

484 U. S. 29

December 1, 1987

Isiah Cooper worked a potentially dangerous job in a paper mill. He had twice been disciplined before he was found to be a marijuana abuser. Under the collective-bargaining agreement, firing disputes were subject to binding arbitration. On rather specious grounds, the arbiter held that Cooper must not be fired for his drug use. Because the arbiter had done such a sucky job, the company petitioned the courts to overrule the arbiter, on the grounds that the he had messed up, and that allowing Cooper to operate dangerous machinery was against public policy.

Unanimously, the Court ruled the arbitration to be binding. White explained that courts are supposed to have a policy of extreme deference to arbitration decisions, especially when they are required by contract. Looking through the evidence, White found that the arbiter had broken no rules, and had acted with the bare minimum of competence. Turning to the public policy issues, he said that the lower court had not been thorough enough in showing that the safety public policy existed, and had not taken care to ensure that the case’s facts matched that policy. Blackmun, joined by Brennan, noted that the outer limits of a court’s power to set aside arbitration as contrary to public policy remained undefined. Then, bizarrely, he proceeded to literally provide a summary of White’s opinion.

The Court’s ruling was correct. The paper company agreed to have firing disputes settled by arbitration, end of story. Regardless, as I’ve already said too many times to count, labor unions are evil and unbiblical organizations. Companies should not sign collective bargaining agreements with them, especially when their firing decisions are subject to kangaroo court arbitration. The shameless, lawless hubris of the union in supporting Cooper truly appalls. One last thing: does anyone really believe that Brennan and Marshall would have backed the arbiter if he had ruled against Cooper? Yeah, didn’t think so.

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