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When good faith efforts between unions and employers fail to resolve the dispute or disputes between the parties, a legal impasse has occurred. Once this occurs, active bargaining between the union and the parties will typically be suspended, and parties go through a series of options to resolve the impasse.

The first option after an impasse is declared is mediation. A mediator is employed to act as a neutral third party to assist the two sides in reaching a compromise. Mediators cannot make binding decisions and are employed only to act as advisors. Many state statutes require use of mediators in the public sector upon declaration of an impasse. Private sector unions and schools may employ a federal mediator, though federal labor laws do not prescribe further options regarding dispute resolution.

Should mediation fail, many states require the employment of a fact-finder, who analyzes the facts of the bargaining process and seeks to recognize a potential compromise. Parties are not bound by recommendations of the fact-finder, though a fact-finder may influence public opinion regarding an appropriate resolution of a dispute. In some states, fact-finding is the final stage of impasse resolution, leaving the parties to bargain among themselves.

Inside Impasse