The Role of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service in Resolving Critical Labor Disputes

Event Date: Thursday May 13, 2004
Time: 12:00 - 1:30 P.M.
Location: Spangler Auditorium, Harvard Business School


Richard Barnes – Executive Director, William J. Usery Center for the Workplace, Georgia State University

Peter J. Hurtgen – Director, Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service

Chuck O’Connor – Vice President General Counsel, Maersk Inc.

Joel Schaffer – Commissioner, FMCS

Richard Trumka – Secretary/Treasurer, AFL-CIO


Kathleen McGinn – Harvard Business School

Some labor disputes are so critical to the daily life of the United States, they capture the public’s attention on a grand scale. Whether the negotiations pertain to key national assets such as transportation (air traffic controllers) and services (UPS), or just the national pastime (Major League Baseball), some disputes are so polarizing and so vital that they cannot be ignored. Beyond the two parties at the table, a number of stakeholders — including the federal government — want a say in the outcome of contract negotiations.

The West Coast Port Dispute of 2002 was such a negotiation. When failed contract negotiations between the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) and the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) resulted in a 10-day lockout of dock workers, container ships were stranded in West Coast harbors and $300 billion in economic activity was put at risk. President George W. Bush invoked the Taft-Hartley Act to get the docks working again, and the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service (FMCS) was called into action to find some common ground between the parties.

Several of the principals in the negotiation will be present to lend their insight into the resolution of the dispute and the role of FMCS in bringing the parties together. The port dispute will be used as a springboard for an exploration into the purpose of mediation and the changing nature of workplace disputes.

Peter Hurtgen, director of FMCS and the lead mediator in the Port Dispute, will be on hand to answer questions, as will his fellow mediators: Richard Barnes, the former director of FMCS and currently executive director of the William J. Usery Center for the Workplace at Georgia State University; and Joel Schaffer, a Commissioner in the Oakland office of FMCS.

The mediators will be joined by Richard Trumka, the Secretary/Treasurer of the AFL-CIO, who played a key role in advising the ILWU during the dispute; and Chuck O’Connor, a respected management attorney specializing in collective bargaining. Currently serving as VP and General Counsel for international shipping line Maersk, O’Connor acted as outside counsel to the PMA during the contract negotiations.

This event is sponsored by the Negotiation, Organizations, and Markets Unit at Harvard Business School.

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