Were there situations when a party came to the table but gave only lip service, or refused to negotiate in good faith?


Angel Alderete


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Question:
In the cases where you realized that people weren't sitting at the table in good faith, did you try to end the process, or did you just try to work with them as long as you could to try to get them to a solution?

Answer:
You know, once we sat down, I never sensed that they were there for any other reason but to be there in good faith. If I didn't think they were in good faith -- and again, maybe I had a thing against officials -- if I sensed that the officials really weren't concerned, really didn't have that necessary good faith, I would go back and tell the folks, "Hey, no sense in meeting with them. Give them more time. Put more pressure on them and see what happens eventually." In fact, when I was talking about Pomona, we did that. And it was really on the minority side where the Latinos and the African Americans couldn't reach an agreement on how they were going to operate. So I told them, "I think I came in too early. Why don't you go ahead and work this out and I'll come back when you're ready. Call me back." So in about a month and a half, a Latino called me. And all he said was, "Angel, we're ready." And so that's when we were able to do that. I didn't do it as a technique. I did it in frustration. The city folks, I felt all throughout were there in good faith, even though you had to drag some of the police people there. Once they got involved, especially when the city manager got involved, they participated.




Bob Hughes


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

How did you deal with parties who came to the table just giving lip service who weren't really negotiating in good faith?

Answer:
Well, hopefully try not to arrange mediation until they were in fact ready to deal with sincerity. But if it happened anyway I would probably not attempt to go very far before talking with them privately and pointing out that I felt like they might not be as open as they needed to be to participate in mediation.

Question:
Was it usually handled simply like that? A simple caucus saying, "I don't think you are being as open as you should be." Now do they automatically go back in and are they forthright?

Answer:
No, probably the next day. We would probably be adjourned for that day. I would not expect a change of behavior without some period of reflection on what I was raising.




Ernest Jones


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Question:
You've mentioned that sometimes people don't always negotiate on good faith, that they are insincere, did that ever happen in the case of the Louisville police department and the black police officers?

Answer:
It started out that way. The FOP was there just to protect their own interests. They really didn't care; they had no vested concern in the issues. With the possible exception that it could have an impact on their people, white officers in the department, if something happened in terms of assignments and promotions. For example, the white guy might not get a promotion or might not get an assignment because they gave it to a black guy.

Question:
And you said this was fifteen years ago, so that's 85?

Answer:
Actually it might even be longer than that. Yeah it was like the late 70s early 80s, somewhere around there.

Question:
And so how did you handle that situation when you knew that they were just there to bide their time basically? How did that affect your job?

Answer:
I don't know that it affected it at all one way or the other. Nobody came out and said that, okay that was our read on the situation. Our read was that the city wanted this to go away and wanted the lawsuit to be settled out of court. They had to be careful in what they allowed to take place simply because of the political atmosphere. The black police officers were looking to get what they saw as equitable treatment but also there were several of them there that were looking to make a buck out of it too. And that's kind of the picture that we saw. Now that doesn't mean that those views and positions can't change or that they're necessarily going to have a negative impact. They're going to have an impact, but it doesn't necessarily have to be bad. And so we just worked it as, here are the issues, we're going to mediate this thing and they're going to resolve the issues one way or the other. And if they can't do it here then they know they're going back to court. And what will happen in the mediation is they'll very quickly get a sense for where they stand, or where they think they stand in terms of where they're going and that will have a big impact on whether they change or not. Some things you just take as a given and you just ride with it and see where it takes you. My sense is that sometimes we tend to complicate the mediation process which is really not necessary.




Efrain Martinez


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Question:
Was there ever any situations where you felt one of the parties was giving you lip service only and was not genuine in their negotiation?

Answer:
Perhaps, but they made the decision. A lot of times people just want to voice their complaints, they want to be seen as players and taken seriously. We did a mediation in a prison, involving Hispanics, blacks, whites, and Indians. There had been a race riot. In negotiations, the white inmates stopped all discussion because they wanted a tape recorder. They saw the administration using tape recorders and all the other culture groups using tape recorders. So we stopped everything and the next day they had a recorder. After many sessions we asked them, "Who's transcribing all this stuff?" "Nobody, we're just using the same tape over and over." They just wanted to make a point. That's how people are. Another case was in a school setting involving the superintendent, the parents, and a civil rights organization. The superintendent wanted the parents to get to the point. What do they want? Parents didn't want to get to that, it was their opportunity to tell their side, and they wanted the superintendent to know what was happening to their kid and to other kids. The superintendent was not interested in all these details, he wanted solutions. The parents weren't at that level, and the civil rights people wanted to tell the superintendent how bad off these people were. When one wouldn't give in, the superintendent walked out. The parents stayed there, the civil rights person there on their behalf walked out. I got out and grabbed them and brought both back with the understanding that the parents would get to talk for fifteen minutes about whatever ailed them. From then on it was going to be about resolution. And the superintendent said, "Okay, I can listen to fifteen minutes." And the parents said they could say what they needed to in fifteen minutes. We then had an agreement.




Dick Salem


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Residents got a hold of a confidential memo that said in two weeks, construction of a new dining room was to begin as the first step of the reorganization. This was in total violation of our agreement. I had assured the inmates that this wouldnít happen. I phoned and called the deputy director who said, "No, this shouldnít be happening. I didnít know that they were going to head that way, but I guess they plan to.Ē I then phoned the commissioner and said, "It looks like we are going to have to stop mediation. What Iíd like to do is meet with you and the support team to the inmates.Ē I rented a room at the Holiday Inn for the next morning and we met there at eight oíclock. The BBDCO support group from Minneapolis was there. The lawyer for the Hispanics was there, about seven of us. We met with the commissioner and we told him what had happened. He was furious.



Martin Walsh


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Are there situations where parties come to the table and do not bargain in good faith?

Answer:
We had a couple. There was a major one here in Boston in which we could not get to a final resolution. The biggest problem was HUD (Department of Housing and Urban Development). It was a federal case and we gave it back to the court. They kept running around in circles. It was a great mediation case, but they were a critical party to the resolution.

Question:
So, when you get to that kind of an impasse...

Answer:
If the parties are not willing, can't get permission from Washington and are just wasting our time, you really don't want to mediate these things.




Stephen Thom


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

How do you deal with parties if you sense they're only giving lip service at the table and aren't serious about making concessions or changes?

Answer:
Well, one way is to go to the opposite party and say, "Did you hear that? What did it mean to you? What did you hear them say and whether you felt if that was a good suggestion and how do you feel about that?" And let them speak for themselves rather than me getting into it. I may caucus and say, "They gave up a lot more than you gave up, are you going to meet them half way or what?" I may caucus and say something like that. But I think it's better if the parties hear it. There have been times when I say, "What did you think about that?" and they say, "That sounds all right with me." I go, whoa, what am I dealing with? That's a whole other alert that I've got to say. Now as a mediator, I think we are looking at the agreements and saying "Do we really give something in value and do we come up with a good agreement? You know an agreement that will really resolve the problems or will it just be a temporary Band-Aid that will come back at us?" So that's where I think we have to beg the question sometimes and maybe prod a little bit in terms of well, let me paraphrase what I think he said and say it in such a way that it's slightly demeaning and see whether we can prompt an understanding of why it might be a very artificial kind of offer. But I think the party has to see it themselves. I think we'd get into danger if I were to say, "I think that's a nothing statement you made."






Stephen Thom


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

What about the flip side of that. Have you ever had a situation where you felt the government or responding party was coming to the table in bad faith and the protest really did need to continue?

Answer:
I think I've been in situations where the institution was only willing to give up a minimum. They had a position and they were willing to come to the table, but they weren't really reflecting on that decision in any real constructive way and possibly more protests would have changed the attitudes that were possibly insincere or insensitive. I think there have been situations where I've seen that kind of behavior, but its hard to assume continued protest would have changed the outcome. If groups are going to sway bad faith negotiators it takes more than protest. But that could happen in the opposite way too, I'll give you an example. I had a case where beatings took place on television, just like Rodney King, and the Hispanic community was very upset. There were demonstrations and marches. We finally got the Hispanic community to sit down with the county sheriffs. The county sheriffs felt they were in for a shellacking. Yet the community asked for nothing. I thought we had a real open situation where the community could ask for a number of mechanisms and strategies to avoid that kind of beating, poor police protocol, and use of force. Yet, when I got the parties together I wasn't able to clear out the issues. They knew what they wanted, they said, and I was trying to get them into the meeting. But when they came to the table they just asked for an advisory committee to the sheriff 's department as a mechanism for long-term discussions. They didn't want any precise preventions for that kind of act. It really surprised me and kind of flabbergasted me because the institution was willing to give much more then what was asked. That was the opposite of your hypothesis. You can get it either way. Prepared parties for mediation is so important.






Angel Alderete


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Question:
What kind of preparation do you give to parties before you sit down to bring them together?

Answer:
If I observe that one group is not able to negotiate with another group on a particular level, then we try to bring them up to that level. It'll never occur that they'll be on a really level field, but at least they should understand some of the things that might happen and some of the processes that might take place. Also, you talk to them in terms of the potential for the city or official group to try to buy them and not really do anything to fix the problem. For the most part, whenever I got involved with officialdom, I usually felt that's what they were trying to do. They weren't trying to be of any help. The only guy I give credit to is this guy in the sheriff's department at Shasta -- he really tried. And the guy up in Cistfield County, they cared. When you go down into the big cities, that's something else. That's my observation, not necessarily an accurate one, perhaps. So as you can see, I would prefer to work in the small communities where you can get a hell of a lot more done than you can in the big city.




Leo Cardenas


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

How did you handle situations where you found that the parties were negotiating but they were just giving lip service to the whole process?

Answer:
We would work with them to try to focus on those things that were negotiable. We would flat-out ask them to number their priorities and force them to come up with back-up positions. When they're not able to do that, then we begin to see that they're just paying lip service. Or if the backup position is that somebody be fired, that's another clue.




Dick Salem


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Question:
Were there ever situations where you got people to the table but they werenít negotiating in good faith?

Answer:
Of course.

Question:
Then what?

Answer:
When you find out you have to address it. Iím trying to keep the theoretical from the practical and actual. There are times when people come together and they arenít going to negotiate in good faith, but they have to come together. I certainly think there are cases where people had their mind made up and couldnít bring themselves to change it and had no intention to. Again, I donít know if thatís not in good faith, I think for example that at Kent State, with the trusties and the University being very conservative and not yielding an inch and having no compassion, sympathy, or empathy for the protestors that they were not going to budge an inch unless they were forced to. So there you have low trust levels, and unwillingness to change. What youíre hoping is that when people come around the table and hear each other out, they will move off of their intractable positions. But again, the politics have to actually permit people to change. If youíre dealing with nations, or high institutions perhaps for political reasons they canít change. If youíre dealing with people across the table who arenít bound that way, they can make some concessions and some changes. Sometimes they can do it and save face. But you can get a school superintendent to make some changes that are totally unacceptable to him for political reasons. His board would never accept it and his public would never accept it. Yet there are changes that he might make after listening, just as he does other things he is asked to do, that are just as important to the community, that he could do without risk. So that when he came in that room, he wasnít going to yield an inch, but as he listened he found out that he could. I think that comes into play. So it really depends on the political constraints on the establishment party and also on the community party. In the building trades the group couldnít move, wouldnít meet, because trust levels were so low. But there was something going on in that coalition, in the building trades coalition, that prevented them from moving forward. That had to be worked out internally without outside intervention or interference. They had to work out their own power struggle internally before they could move forward.






Will Reed


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Question:
If we go back to the specific case involving Alice, was there ever a time when you sat down at the table with both parties that you felt that one side was only providing lip service, that they weren't really dealing in good faith? Did you ever feel that way?

Answer:
From an attitudinal point of view, there were a couple of people who I thought might have been shooting their mouths off and didn't really come there sincerely. One was a little timid, about what he had to say and what he was going to do and what he was going to promise.




Dick Salem


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Question:
So coming back to the table, when one side makes a demand or a request that the other side absolutely isnít going to budge on, what do you, as a mediator, do?

Answer:
Try to find out why, try to keep the conversation going. I mentioned the case where the American Indians wanted a peer counseling at the reformatory in St. Cloud, and it was clear a wall was put up and it was not retractable at that point in time. So some dynamic is going to have to change, but on that day, that week it wasnít going to happen, and there was nothing that I could do. Now, we could have taken a break and I might have gone over to talk to somebody, but it was pretty clear that the union had taken its stand and was in control. They were quiet the entire mediation. For 6 months they really had few demands and I knew they were very angry that the administration was yielding on so many points. Then all of a sudden, this is their stand. We are the counselors and nobody else , no inmate, is going to do counseling. The fact that it was better for the inmates had nothing to do with it. The administration knew they couldnít pass that line and they didnít. It was clear to me. Probably clear to the inmates that they wouldnít accept it. There was no need for me to go over to somebody and say, "whatís going on? Canít you open up?Ē There might be other cases where Iíd sit with somebody, but not then.




Silke Hansen


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

How instrumental were you as a CRS worker in developing those interests and directing both sides to maybe show the data or show that good faith was there?

Answer:
Of course I want to say it wouldn't have happened without us. I think we were instrumental. I think that some people see facilitators as just sort of being there and making it happen. After a while, I think you almost unconsciously help frame it in terms of making sure that both sides see what the significance is. You make sure that both sides take out the significance of the information that they were getting from the other side and understand why that information was being presented. I think that's what is often missed. Frequently, you have two parties in a conflict and there's been a lot of talk and a lot of alleged communication, but just because people are talking, doesn't mean that they're communicating. So part of the role that we, as mediators, play, is making sure that if people are talking, that the other side is listening and understanding. In a setting like this, I think that was as crucial as any case that we've worked in.







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