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A person chosen to decide a question in a controversy that has been submitted to Arbitration but has not been resolved because the arbitrators cannot reach agreement, or one who has been chosen to be a permanent arbitrator for the duration of a collective bargaining agreement.

Arbitration is the submission of a dispute to an unbiased third person designated by the parties to the controversy, who agree in advance to comply with the decision. Arbitration is quicker, less expensive, and more informal than a court proceeding. Commercial arbitration and labor arbitration are commonplace in the United States. Persons who hear these types of dispute resolution cases are called arbitrators and umpires. Umpires are used either to break an impasse in arbitration or to serve as specialized, long-term decision makers.

An arbitrator is a person selected by the parties to hear the dispute. An arbitrator must be mutually agreed upon by the parties and may be named, for example, in a labor-management Collective Bargaining agreement or may be chosen after the dispute has arisen. In labor arbitration a single arbitrator may hear a case, but frequently a three-member arbitration panel hears the dispute. The three members consist of an arbitrator selected by management, another chosen by labor, and a chairperson selected either by the parties or by the two arbitrators appointed by the parties. The arbitrators selected by the parties act like advocates, but the chairperson is expected to be neutral.

If the three-person panel cannot agree on a decision, the arbitrators may name an umpire to decide the controversy. The umpire acts independently and is vested with the sole authority to decide the issues that have been presented.

An umpire is also sometimes used in labormanagement grievance proceedings. In this situation a single, permanent umpire is appointed to resolve disputes for the term of the collective bargaining agreement. The umpire becomes familiar with the economic, financial, and dayto-day working conditions of an industry and may rely on precedents developed by previous umpires. This form of umpire system began in the anthracite coal mining industry in the early 1900s and has been used in other industries, including clothing manufacturing and newspaper printing.


Alternative Dispute Resolution; Grievance Procedure; Labor Law; Labor Union.

West's Encyclopedia of American Law, edition 2. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

UMPIRE. A person selected by two or more arbitrators. When they are authorize to do so by the submission of the parties, and they cannot agree as to the subject-matter referred to them, whose duty it is to decide the matter in dispute. Sometimes the term is applied to a single arbitrator, selected by the parties themselves. Kyd on Awards, 6, 75, 77 Caldw. on Arb. 38; Dane's Ab. Index, h.t.; 3 Vin. Ab. 93; Com. Dig. Arbitrament, F; 4 Dall. 271, 432; 4 Sco. N. S. 378; Bouv. Inst. Index, h.t.

A Law Dictionary, Adapted to the Constitution and Laws of the United States. By John Bouvier. Published 1856.
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