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97 Harv. L. Rev 278 (1983-1984)


In 1976 Charles V. Bowen, a United States Postal Service employee requested that his union, the American Postal Workers initiate arbitration proceedings to prevent his employer from firing him over an alleged altercation with another employee. After the union refused Bowen sued both the Service for firing him and American Postal Workers for breaching its duty of fair representation. The case reached the U.S. Supreme Court, which held that a union that fails to properly represent an employee illegally fired from his job is liable for a portion of his lost wages. The Bowen decision poses a serious threat to the grievance machinery and financial health of unions, placing them at the mercy of juries that are ignorant of the reality of labor relations and forcing them to push unmeritorious grievances to costly arbitration. Unions must now be creative and devise strategies to reduce both the number of lawsuits and the adverse judgements in the suits that are filled.


Reprinted with permission of Harvard Law Review.



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