Did a party ever threaten to walk out of a mediation? What did you do then?


Angel Alderete


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Question:
Did you ever have a party walk away from the table?

Answer:
Yes. This Latino group in Fresno. They just said, "To hell with it," and they walked off.

Question:
And did you try to influence that or did you just say, "Okay"?

Answer:
No, I asked them, "Why are you going?" Their response was, "Well, they're getting everything, all of the attention." Things had happened outside of the table and I had very little control over that, so I said, "Let's see if we can't work through it." In fact, I and another co-worker were mediating that. We both ended up agreeing, at that point, that there wasn't much we could do and so we walked away as they walked away.




Dick Salem


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

The legal assistance attorneys were not participating in mediation at this point, but when we opened the next session that afternoon, one the attorneys and a student stormed into the room and announced that they were not going to represent the inmates any more if they were going to be harassed by the staff. "This is an issue which I want resolved here and now or we arenít coming back to this institutionĒ he said. You can image the response of the inmates. They then caucused with the legal team behind a locked door for 45 minutes. They hadnít been there for three weeks and all of a sudden they came in and made this announcement and caucused across the hall. Eventually they came back and the issue was resolved. I donít remember the details, but there were assurances given and then they disappeared again.

Question:
What were you doing while this was going on?

Answer:
I was cooling my heels. What can you do when the group caucuses and they donít want you there? Usually, you wait awhile and give them some time and stick your head in to see if you can be a positive factor. But they wouldnít let me in. Oh, they were furious. That ended and we got through that.




Renaldo Rivera


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Question:
Do you find that you often have to call caucuses?

Answer:
Yes, you do. In fact when things are getting to testy or when people are starting to clamor you, let so much of it go on. There is a whole bunch of set timing. First you let each party know that they can call for a caucus at any time. That's important. That is part of the ground rules. Once the sessions are going, sometimes you are moving towards an agreement on one set of frameworks or parameters and somebody wants to bring in another whole set of issues that weren't really on the table yet and so you shift over and you talk about those for a little bit of time and then as soon as you're getting toward a reasonable sets of understandings around that new set of questions they'll bring in a third set. Then you have to caucus. Those are sets of individuals on either side who are simply wanting to maintain the antagonisms and not reach closure or move towards agreement on any one set of issues by bringing up a secondary and third share of each set of questions. Or attempting to broaden the scope of the current mediation. Those are clear times to call caucuses. Another one is the anger levels. You have to let them vent from each side to some extent and you prepare each side in the pre-negotiation sessions for some venting to be taking place, to be prepared for it, rather than just reacting to it, which helps them. You can see people restrain themselves better then they might normally have done. Sometimes the anger levels get to such that you then have to simply ask for a caucus while you depressurize the situation. Then the third time for caucuses is when people start using personal attacks, which you've already put in the ground rules, but it starts to happen. Well, that's time to call a caucus because often times the person involved in personal attacks is operating out of this dream of what his side of the party wanted and they just lost it for a second on either side or are losing it. Or choosing to lose control. And you'll find that when you put them back in their second table sessions or their separate party stuff in a caucus you'll point it out and then their own other members will say, "Hey that's not very useful." They'll find a way to do that, both on the community side and public officials. I think there is usually a fourth area; its anger, its personal attack, it's getting off the point or trying to expand the agenda, and I think the forth or the fifth area is there will be people who'll essentially, no matter how many meetings you've had with them before, will try to undermine the process itself. So when you caucus, you ask them if that's what they're doing or you introduce that you called the caucus because there are some concerns that you have. You permit the caucus group to say, if you've called it, to say is that what it wants to do and you can permit it to keep it involved or not. Very rarely do they say "You can leave CRS," but sometimes they'll ask for it. You already know that they couldn't do it before, so they'll just come back again later and maybe these individuals will be a little more responsive the next time around. So that's pretty much it on the caucuses.




Martin Walsh


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Question:
The mediation team for the community group was totally students of color?

Answer:
Yeah, ALANA.

Question:
Did they have any advisors during this process, the mediation?

Answer:
No advisors, per se, at the mediation sessions. The advisors to the students never manifested themselves directly. The administration had the president and the chancellor, vice chancellor, director of community affirmative action, and the director of student life, and the campus police chief.

Question:
What was the role of the general campus community? Was it involved in any way?

Answer:
No. The newspaper was covering the mediation sessions and it would come out with periodic reports on it. So did the Globe. The information was going back to the general campus and public. That kept the sense of getting information back to the community. The students did a lot of reporting back. They had meetings with their constituents after the sessions.

Question:
Did you do anything to prepare the teams or coach them before they came to mediation?

Answer:
I think we did coaching. In one sense we really didn't have to work through the demand process -- one thing we do in a lot of our cases. We didn't have to do that. Alerting them to what the process was, and how it would work, yes, in both groups. And whom we thought should be at the table. That was part of our effort. And going over the general ground rules. Other than that it was more informal communication back and forth, of knowing in general that the students are going to have X numbers, and these are the issues, and talking with both sides, sharing with them just a sense of a reality framework to clarify what they were thinking so that the sessions themselves could be productive. A lot of information had to go out to the students. We hoped they would read all of it because the administration prepared a lot of information about what they were doing and trying to do, what some of the past practices were, a lot of information. The whole informal communication process was important. Also, we had good relations right from the beginning with the student leader who represented them and was an excellent leader.

Question:
Did you ever have the need for caucuses?

Answer:
No. After each of the sessions we prepared a report on what the agreements were and got it out so that each of them knew what was taking place. We got that out in between the meetings.

Question:
Did they ever have to take issues back to their own constituencies before coming back to agree or disagree?

Answer:
Well, they kept saying that they would bring them back. Basically, after there was a preliminary agreement reached, the students would go back to their constituents and review that. The reaction from their constituencies was the first thing on the agenda for the next formal mediation session. Informally, we kept the lines open to get reactions.




Stephen Thom


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

We were there for hours. We looked at all the options we could come up with. We caucused and we came back. We took lunch and came back to the table, but there was no movement. We did everything we could to see whether we could refresh and energize the parties to back and figure out some acceptable option. It was about the third or fourth caucus when one of the representatives came up to me and said, "I think I have the way." She was the spokesperson of one of the tribes. I asked her what was it? "They have to tell us." "Tell you what?" I asked. 'They have to say, 'That's the way it is, you can't have them. That's the only way. You can't have the remains until we are done in two months.' They have to tell us."

Question:
Who was at that session?

Answer:
It was a caucus. We had taken a break and she had come and asked to caucus with Larry Myers and myself.

Question:
She wanted to talk to you away from the group."

Answer:
Yes.

Question:
Was she representing the group?

Answer:
She was a strong enough leader and we knew she had the confidence of most of the group. There was no doubt about it that whatever she said was going to go. She had that kind of influence. It was kind of interesting because we went to the institution and told them they had to say, "This is a non-negotiable! You have to tell them that those remains are not going to be available, absolutely, and that's the only way this is going to work. And the Dean of the Department said, "What?" He didn't want to take a hard position and feel like the institution was being dogmatic. They had been very open and cooperative and all of a sudden now they are going to say, "No...this is absolute...you can't have them for two months, and until this takes place, they're just not available." They were very reluctant to do that, but Institution representatives finally realized what the message was. The real message behind the option was that the Native Americans did not want to betray their ancestors. If they gave permission for the University to hold the remains any longer then they would have violated the trust of their elders and the spirits of their ancestors. But if they are told by the institution to wait two months, then it wasn't on them. It was the ownership of the betrayal that was important to them, and that was the only way we got through that impasse. It came through a caucus...and nobody really wanted to do it, but it was the only way. So, there was an agreement that there would be an extension.




Stephen Thom


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

And again, in a caucus, the town council guy came up to us and said, "You know what, we're willing to release the chief."

Question:
Release the chief?

Answer:
Yes, to terminate the police chief from his contract. He said, "You can't say that, but I just want to let you know that our position is that we would do this." Okay, So what! That's what I said. Now I got information that I think could resolve this, but I'm not given permission to release it. Now we need to assess how to handle this barrier, so we decide to get the tribe to ask for it. Now we have to try to get the tribe to look at other options: what is the real concern's of the tribe, or what do you think would make a difference, and get them to pose it in such a way that the town will be in a position to give it up. But if we would have not have known what this impasse was about from the caucus, we wouldn't have been able to move this case.

Question:
What did you do?

Answer:
We probed the tribal council members as to what their concern was and what they felt needed to be done, and at some point it came out, "We think a leadership change of the town police is necessary." The town council said, "Well, we'll consider that." They wanted a caucus, and they went into a caucus for a while, and came back and said, "Ok, we'll curtail the chief's contract when it comes up for renewal." That was it. Everything fell into place. So in those impasses, caucusing has been the key for me in most of those situations. But you try all the probing you can, and try to move it. We've taken a lot of breaks, come back after meals, but I think the probing that a mediator does in terms of getting the parties to think beyond the box is probably the best way to get through those impasses.






Stephen Thom


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Typically when you reach an impasse, and there's no give and take by either party, we like to call a caucus and see if we can get any more information as to what are the particulars and what are the positions and concerns of either party with regards to the issue we are stuck on. In the caucus, I try to clarify where people are on the issues, and why.



Stephen Thom


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Sometimes I call for timeouts and ask for caucuses. There have been times where I've said, "Wait a minute, we need to review why we're here and what tone and ground rules we've agreed to abide by. If I sense some discomfort by some of the people, I'll say, "By the behavior of the individuals there seems to be a need to take some of that tone out of here," or "Could we take a time out?" At that time I can meet with individuals to draw out that person and speak to that person directly and say, "You know you're creating a level of hostility. Do we want to move forward in working towards a solution?



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.






Bob Hughes


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

One, the main thing we need to get is a free and frank exchange of ideas. This can be brutal at times. I've had a mayor walk out of a meeting and I had to chase him and say, "This is what we've got to have, get all the problems out here on the table now. Whatever way it takes. We should be understanding, and it may hurt, but it's much more important that we be frank and talk about it, rather than lay only part of the issues out and still have other issues, concerns, or problems. This is our chance to deal with them."



Ozell Sutton


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Things were so hot in the mediation and so volatile, that I decided to call a caucus right there. That's one of the techniques, caucus. I brought the black police officers here, and whites in the conference room. I assigned two staff members to the conference room and I took the black officers, because that's where the interest comes from and they were threatening to walk out. I walked up to the door and blocked the door. If anybody goes out of this room, he'll have to go over me. I know you're police officers and you really can go over me, but I don't think you want to do that. And that's what you're going to have to do. Nobody's going out of this room until we have at least agreed that you should go out. He said, "I've never seen a more determined person than you were. You stopped smiling, and that's the capacity that you have, you smile a lot. But boy, you stopped smiling so fast it got me sweating." Nobody's going out of this door unless they go over me.

Question:
So you gave them an opportunity for them to vent in a caucus or in the actual mediation?

Answer:
I wanted to clear up some issues in here before I went back in there. I wanted the opportunity to convince them that they were saying things that I would clear and that I personally would assure them. Now you're getting away from the processes and talking about 'I'. I said, "I don't think there's a man in this room that does not know that Ozell does not sell the interests of black folk short." I would not sell them short, and their interests short.

Question:
This is in caucus?

Answer:
This is in caucus. Now the only thing I'm talking about here is I will pursue those interests. In other words, your cause.

Question:
Did you feel that it was necessary to say that explicitly?

Answer:
It felt especially necessary to say that explicitly. To let them know that I knew. I even did something that a mediator does not do very often. I went back into my own personal credentials, personal identification and personal credentials, been there. So not only am I not going to sell you short, I'm not going to let that happen in mediation. That way I got them back in the room.






Efrain Martinez


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

If somebody wants to walk away from the negotiations, do you work to keep them there, or would you say okay?

Answer:
At times when it's happened to me, I halted the discussions and conferred with each side. I think I told you the last time about the superintendent, the parents, and the civil rights group. They both walked out, because in mediating they couldn't decide how they were going to proceed. So we just came up with a way that one would listen to the other for fifteen minutes and then vice versa.




Efrain Martinez


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

They walked out, so I had to caucus with them again and had them agree to discussing those two points toward the end of the discussion. By then they would've gotten a whole lot more. Getting paid and having class status and some money wasn't where they needed to be. They didn't file suit to get class action and they didn't file suit to get paid. They filed suit to correct some wrong doings that they perceived had occurred. Other than that, I can't think of any.






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