The impasse doctrine in collective bargaining allows limited unilateral action by an employer when a good-faith deadlock in negotiations is reached between the employer and employees' representatives. This doctrine is a judicial invention used to reconcile the dual mandate of the National Labor Relations Act: to enforce the duty of good-faith bargaining while not compelling parties to accept agreements or make concessions. Traditionally, the impasse doctrine has been viewed as a tool to promote an ongoing bargaining process; more recently, it has been viewed as a terminal point in the negotiation process. By broadening the definition of impasse, courts ascribing to the recent revision of the impasse doctrine have moved impasse away from its historical role in an ongoing bargaining system. This liberalization of the impasse doctrine has increased managerial discretion in the bargaining process by permitting an employer to safely resort to unilateral action in a wider variety of situations.
Thomas C. Albus,
Head'em off at the Impasse: A Victory for Management in the War to Implement Its Last Best Offer - Mountain Valley Educational Ass'n v. Maine SAD No. 43,
1996 J. Disp. Resol.
Available at: https://scholarship.law.missouri.edu/jdr/vol1996/iss2/5